'Loopy Lou' on pommel ends British drought

It may seem like a trinket compared to the sackful of golden bullion that has come Britain's way here but the bronze medal won by 19-year-old gymnast Louis Smith yesterday stands out as an invaluable artefact for his sport.

It is 100 years since a British gymnast last won an individual Olympic medal but Smith, who came to Beijing believing he had only an outside chance, firmly grasped it with both hands on the handle of the pommel horse. Smith's considerable talent was honed in Huntingdon, something of a sporting backwater unless you count the equine activities down the road in Newmarket. But horses for courses. Smith's is of the pommel variety, upon which he swivels his hips and gyrates with a smoothness and dexterity that has already stacked the shelves of his village home in Eye, near Peterborough, with silverware. Now his Olympic bronze will take pride of place.

Smith's performance, laced with poise, strength and balance, made him the youngest Briton so far to win a medal at these Games (he was born two months later than double gold swimming medallist Rebecca Adlington) with a total of 15.725 points. Having finished level on points with Croatia's Filip Ude, who was awarded the silver, Smith was placed third after the tie-break procedure. The event was won by China's Xiao Qin with 15.875.

"I was emotional, scared and nervous," said Smith. "It was just crazy. I hope this medal is a stepping stone for British gymnastics and it will inspire youngsters to come into our sport." Smith says he owes much to his mother Elaine, a single parent. "If it wasn't for her I would be nowhere." The Commonwealth Games gold medallist in 2006, a year later Smith became the first British male gymnast in 13 years to win a world championship medal with a pommel horse bronze.

He has the perfect physique for the pommel horse, which is like a vaulting horse with handles around which gymnasts circle the body in pendulum-like swings. "You need to be a certain shape, and he has very long arms with a slender body – a good aesthetic line," says his coach Paul Hall. "He really is an amazing competitor. Beijing was not really on our target sheet. The plans were for 2012 because he will be at the age when you expect him to peak. So this has come as a real bonus."

Affectionately known to his mates as "Loopy Lou", Smith has been at the Huntingdon Olympic Club for more than 10 years. "He's a good all-round gymnast, especially on the pommel horse," says Hall. "I remember the meeting I had with his mum when he first joined. He had just got a scholarship to a choral school – he has a very good voice – and she was in a dilemma. I am glad he chose gymnastics."

These days his singing is confined to the shower – usually Michael Jackson numbers. With natural rhythm, he is also into reggae but his favourite group, perhaps prophetically, is Destiny's Child.

Gymnastic joy for Britain

*Louis Smith's bronze is Britain's first Olympic gymnastics medal in 80 years. Walter Tysal won the only previous individual medal, a silver in London in 1908, missing out on the gold to Italy's Albert Braglia, known as "the human torpedo". Britain has never won Olympic gold, the only other medals being a men's team bronze in 1912 and women's team silver in 1928.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform