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Gymnastics: Beth Tweddle expects progress but plays down Team GB medal hopes


Beth Tweddle and her final march on gymnastic glory have reached the team stage in tonight's Olympic final. Not that the cognoscenti are holding their breath for a valedictory medal in the North Greenwich Arena. The preamble provided by the Olympic organisers followed convention, listing only four teams going for gold, and Britain was not one of them.

Tweddle, who takes her competitive leave next Monday in the uneven bars, for which she is among the favourites, will not mind the snub. Britain qualified fifth and, though confident, might benefit from the lack of professional expectation. That does not mean there will be a fanfare shortfall when the five-strong team take to the apparatus.

It is 88 years since Britain last won a medal in the team gymnastics, and it was the women who provided it in Amsterdam. The fifth place achieved in the World Championship last year without Tweddle is a fair measure of the team's potential. They have not gone backwards since with her return. And in 15-year-old Rebecca Tunney, in her first senior year, Britain would appear to have a gymnast capable of taking the story on.

Tweddle's score of 16.133 in the individual bars was the highest of the qualifying competition and offers reassurance ahead of her attack on the apparatus in the individual event. "I've thought about this competition and this bars routine for so long and to produce my best score this Olympic cycle in qualifying, it couldn't be any better," said the 27-year-old.

Tweddle is realistic about the prospects today. "You've got USA, China, Russia and Romania. They are the powerhouses and unless they have major falls and we go superbly clean we're not quite at that level."