Gymnastics: GB's women's team shine but fail to bring back a medal


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The Independent Online

In the end, it was the floor which delivered up the story of a triumph which was more emphatic than even the United States could have hoped it would be.

The Russians, their challengers, who behind those grim countenances at times revealed perhaps the greater grace, were first to take to the mat and their efforts dissolved into the disaster of first Victoria Komova and then Ksenniia Afanaseva missing tumbles, with tears and bitter self recrimination to follow. Then the Americans took the same territory – seized is the better word, perhaps, to describe Gabby Douglas, the one they called the flying squirrel. Her raw, free-wheeling performance, scored 15.06, told the world that her nation were Olympic champions. That Afanaseva should have collected 14.33 for a display which ended amid such calamity revealed the heights at which she operates. What might she otherwise have achieved?

 And while all of this was unraveling, a certain someone was quietly signing off from Olympic women’s team gymnastics. Britain’s Beth Tweddle’s parting shot went almost overlooked, though her display on the uneven bars revealed the size of the space she leaves in her wake. Britain’s 6th place finish might have actually been a fourth but for their faltering start, minus Tweddle, on the balance beam. Young Rebecca Tunney’s unflinching vault played its part in pulling her team back from eighth at the first rotation. And for Jenny Pinches, whose beam routine had been so faltering, it required some fortitude to recover for a fine vault of her own.

How typical of Tweddle’s refusal to accept less than best that she should have left her own floor display shaking her head, after a complex early rotation took her several toes’ width off the mat. She had hurled herself into the Live and Let Die routine which has been commanding, complex and cheeky at these Olympics.

There were some other moments which will live long in the memory. Was there any individual offering better than the floor routine of Sandra Izbasa, awarded 15.20? Probably not. The Romanians looked briefly as if they may eclipse the Russians before having to settle for bronze. The floor belonged to them.

But everything was subsidiary to the collective might of the women who left the arena wearing gold last night. For Jordy Wieber, the woman considered the best woman gymnast in the world, there was the need to make a personal statement, having been denied place in the all-round final by finishing behind Aly Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas. She made it. The competition was a few minutes old when she threw herself into her vault of 6.5 difficulty (scored 15.96). The sight of Anastasia Grishina, throwing herself into huge flight and fine movement on the uneven bars – which are to Russia what the vault is to the US – suggested this might be a titanic battle. But this US team’s favourite routine is the floor, which they took last. By their own design and the challenger’s misfortune, they swept all aside. A final five-point advantage cannot lie.