Gymnastics: Louis Smith leads Team GB's fab five to bronze

First Olympic medal in history for home men's team has crowd in frenzy

The North Greenwich Arena

Welcome to the Olympic Games. While it is absurd to rank one contribution above another there was an epic quality to the historic bronze returned by Britain's fantastic five in the men's gymnastic team event that arguably surpassed the brilliance of Lizzie Armitstead and Rebecca Adlington on day two.

Britain have not so much sniffed a team medal in gymnastics since our women won bronze at Amsterdam in 1924. The men last crossed the medal threshold at the Olympics in 1912 with bronze. Yet here we were bouncing around the North Greenwich Arena believing for a few impossible moments that it was a silver medal coming Britain's way. The place was in tumult, 20,000 Brits screaming unhinged approval. Then came the spanner thrown by Japan, disputing the scoring of the final discipline after Kohei Uchimura fell off the pommel.

The protest was accepted. Japan vaulted back into second behind China. Boos rang out, an acceptable reflex, given the distance Britain had travelled. Decorum was quickly restored and when those medals were hung around the necks of Louis Smith, Max Whitlock, Daniel Purvis, Kristian Thomas and Sam Oldham there was not a trace of rancour or discontent.

Smith, a bronze medallist in the pommel in Beijing, said: "To get a medal was just unbelievable. A different feeling from Beijing. On the pommel you are on your own. To go from piece to piece here, to have the crowd erupting, to be captain of these boys. I have been working with them for 10 years. I've spent my life with these guys. To get a medal at London 2012 is just the icing on the cake."

The captain spoke for all and with generosity about the decision to overturn the Japan result. "I'm happy for the Japanese. All of us look up to them. They are at the pinnacle of this sport. All of us want to be as good as them. To see them get a medal I am happy.

"We all said at the time the crowd shouldn't boo. If the judges got something wrong and they deserve to win a medal then that is good enough for me. Bronze, silver it doesn't matter to us. We set out to come top six or top five. We came out to enjoy ourselves. There was no expectation to win. We just wanted to have fun. After qualifying there was no pressure. I went out there excited and it showed in my pommel performance."

So Britain had fulfilled an obligation demanded of the greatest sporting occasions; they got off the deck to ascend the podium. When Oldham went to the high bar, the penultimate discipline, Britain were in bronze medal position. Maybe it was the thought of what might be that began to invade.

A moment's loss of concentration saw the 19-year-old crash to the floor in a heap. Silence enveloped the arena. Bravely he rechalked his hands and resumed the apparatus. The cheer from the crowd had about it a sympathetic tone. There goes the plucky Brit. He landed an ambitious finish but the mistake cost Britain an automatic point and third place. It was all on the last event, the floor routines of Whitlock, Purvis and Thomas. To borrow from the lingua franca of Twitter and Facebook, "Oh my god". Whitlock put a foot outside the square early but it hardly mattered. All three cracked out 15-plus scores, edging past the Ukraine team, who were handed the hardest discipline with which to finish, the rings. The audience were momentarily separated from their senses.

Bearing its present moniker, the North Greenwich Arena has found its niche as a venue for the performing arts. Though rightly classified as a sport by virtue of the athletic demand, there is in matters of poise and composition a balletic quality to gymnastics that made Tony Blair's old Millennium Dome the ideal location to house this incredible gathering.

Even William and Harry were in the house, recognising the value of the ticket. Britain began on the pommel, which meant a brief but important contribution from Smith, the last of the three nominated gymnasts to go.

It was his only action of the night but significant, donating 15.966 to help Britain into the silver medal position after the first rotation. In the second of six disciplines neither Thomas, Purvis nor Oldham proved lords of the rings. To a greater or lesser degree each failed to control their landings, dropping Britain down to fifth.

Oldham stepped down for the vault to be replaced by Whitlock. All three prospered but it was Thomas who gave the most assured performance scoring a massive 16.550. The clenched fist salute showed what he felt about the importance of his leap, which helped the team into the bronze medal position at half way. The drama was only just beginning. Of his subsequent fall from the high bar Oldham said: "I was gutted, crushed but I had to switch out of that as quick as I could because I knew it wasn't over. If I fell again that was it. I managed to get back on and finish it clean. So it wasn't terminal. I couldn't waver. We had to keep the belief. The response of the crowd when I got back up was just amazing. I have never experienced anything like that. I'm a bit overwhelmed, to be honest." In that he was not alone.

High flyers: Great Britain's history men

Sam Oldham

The 19 year-old from Nottingham won a host of gold medals at junior level, including the horizontal bars at the 2010 youth Olympics in Singapore. A talented all-round athlete, he was once offered football trials at Derby County and Nottingham Forest as a youngster.

Daniel Purvis

The 21-year-old, from Liverpool, is a three-time British champion in the all-round event. He qualified with the highest men's senior all-around score at the 2012 European Gymnastics Championship in Montpellier, and also won bronze in the floor event in the 2010 world championships in Rotterdam.

Louis Smith

The 23-year-old from Peterborough is the most recognisable face in the team, having taken home a bronze medal in the pommel horse in Beijing in 2008. By doing so he became the first British athlete to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics since the women's team won bronze in Amsterdam in 1928.

Kristian Thomas

The 23-year-old from Wolverhampton was only ten when he began competing in gymnastics events for his country at junior level. Alongside team-mates Purvis, Smith, and Max Whitlock he was also part of the team that won the team event at the European Championships this year.

Max Whitlock

The 19-year-old from Hemel Hempstead was part of the team that won silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He also enjoyed individual success in the competition in Delhi, taking home two other medals – a silver in the pommel horse, plus a bronze in the horizontal bar event.

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum