'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
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
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

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing