Daniel Purvis has praised Louis Smith for the influence he has had on men's gymnastics as the team gears up for its first Olympic final in over 80 years.
Thanks to their superb performance in the qualifications at the weekend, Great Britain’s men will appear in the final of the team all-around competition for the first time in 88 years.
The presence of Olympic champions China, as well as the United States and Russia in the final mean it will be tough for the home team to win a medal, but their performance on Saturday — when Britain finished behind only the US and Russia in qualifying — means they have already surpassed expectations.
Purvis, who has also qualified for the final of the men’s individual all-around event in his first Games, believes Smith’s bronze medal in Beijing has galvanised British gymnastics. Smith’s pommel-horse routine secured him a podium spot four years ago and he will seek individual gold on the same apparatus on Sunday.
“What Louis did in Beijing enabled British gymnasts to get sponsorship money, which has really helped my training and everyone else’s,” said Purvis. “The legacy he created is really big and it’s about everyone coming together.
“He is a really good team captain. He is very experienced because of what he learned in Beijing and he let us know what competing at the Olympics would be like. It was pretty much as he said it would be. Until you have done the Olympics, you can’t understand what it is like, so it will be a good test for us.”
There will be no room for mistakes in the final, the rules of which make it far more unforgiving than the qualifiers.
In the preliminary round, the teams performed four routines on each of the six pieces of apparatus and the lowest individual score was discarded. In the final, only three gymnasts per team work on each piece of apparatus and every score counts, meaning one mistake could end medal chances.
China’s victory on home soil in 2008, and their World Championship win last year, means they are favourites, despite achieving a total 2.4 points lower than Great Britain’s at the weekend.
“Psychologically, it was important that we finished ahead of them,” Purvis admitted. “We were not expecting it when we came in. We were just hoping to qualify and hit our routines as well as we could but to be above China in qualifying gave us all a lift. The key for the final will be to hit our routines as cleanly as we can. There is an outside chance we can get on the podium and to win a medal would be a dream come true.”
The men hope to build on a satisfying weekend for Great Britain after the women’s team followed their performance by also moving into the final of their all-around event, which takes place tomorrow.
Their work was crowned by the individual display of Beth Tweddle, who was awarded a score of 16.133 for the bars routine that put her through to the final, at the top of the leaderboard for that discipline. Tweddle has three world titles but has never claimed an Olympic medal.
Tweddle had injury fears coming into the Games and revealed: “Twelve weeks ago, I didn’t think I’d be walking into the arena, so to reach the final is the icing on the cake. The last few weeks have been really hard, because the pressure has been on.
“I would have walked out disappointed if I had not done a clean routine and it was the best feeling in the world.”