British quintet raise gymnastics profile

31 July 2012 / 17:21

British Gymnastics believe Monday night's historic bronze medal will inspire a new generation of youngsters to take up the sport.

Louis Smith, Max Whitlock, Daniel Purvis, Sam Oldham and Kristian Thomas become household names when they won bronze in the men's team event. The unexpected medal - Britain's first team success in 100 years - brought Prince William to his feet at the North Greenwich arena and created an unprecedented level of interest in the sport.

Gymnastics has rarely been in the public spotlight, but last night 5.4million people watched the final on the BBC and British Gymnastics have revealed a record 40,000 people had accessed their website yesterday.

Perhaps the most encouraging statistic for the governing body is that 1,500 of those visitors clicked on the 'How to find a new club' page - a 10-fold increase on normal traffic levels. British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen hopes that means the sport will see a huge influx of new participants.

She said: "Our website had a record number of hits and the third highest hit page was on the page about how to find a club so hopefully that means a whole new wave of people will be getting involved in the sport. We are definitely into a new era for gymnastics now."

The future does appear bright for British gymnastics from the grass-roots up. Significant investment has already gone into the 1500 gymnastics clubs, a handful of which are elite centres from which the likes of Smith and Beth Tweddle have emerged.

UK Sport funding, which is dependent on success at the Olympics, plays a key role in helping gymnasts to succeed and Allen is convinced the sport will get more backing now they are on course to reach their target of one to two medals.

She added: "The result has confirmed the central belief that we belong up there with the best in the world, along with the likes of China, America and Russia so UK Sport will be confident in investing in us for the next cycle. It's a dream to have a men's and women's team like Britain's."

Oldham, who is reigning Youth Olympic high bar champion, thinks more stars will come through the system by the time the 2016 Games come around.

"We've got incredible juniors coming up and hopefully we can do this in four, eight, 12 years time," he said. "The support we've got from everyone in the audience, the British public. Hopefully it's raised the profile of the sport. I want to just enjoy this experience and try and take it all in because it's just unbelievable."