Glorious day for British men gymnasts

28 July 2012 / 22:57

Great Britain's men's gymnastics team put on a stunning performance and exceeded all expectations at the North Greenwich arena to qualify for their first Olympic men's gymnastics team final in 88 years.

The five-man team of Louis Smith, Daniel Purvis, Kristian Thomas, Max Whitlock and Sam Oldham finished third behind the United States and Russia, booking themselves several places in individual finals in the process.

Smith broke down in tears after he produced a magnificent pommel horse routine which scored 15.800 - the best of the day by some margin - which helped Britain finish with a total of 272.240 points, ahead of both Japan and world and Olympic champions China.

It was an outpouring of sheer emotion from the usually calm and composed Smith, who ended Britain's 80-year gymnastics Olympic medal drought with a bronze medal in Beijing four years ago. The 23-year-old will now compete in Monday's team final and the pommel horse final next Sunday.

"It's been an emotional four years for the whole of British gymnastics," Smith said. "There's been a lot of pressure since Beijing to perform at these Olympics. It's hard to try and explain what I felt when I landed that routine.

"I even heard myself say 'come on' to myself twice. I've never actually done that before. It came close in Beijing but this time, I've never experienced anything like it in my life, and then to watch Kristian go through the last pommel horse routine, it just caps an amazing eight weeks of training that we've had."

It has been astounding year for the British men's team after they fell short of Olympic qualification in last year's World Championships in Tokyo.

They earned their place at London 2012 in the second-chance test event, held at the arena in January, before going on to claim team gold in May's European Championships - the first ever major championships team gold medal for Britain. But Smith is not the only member of the team to book his place in an individual final.

Whitlock will compete against his team-mate in the pommel horse final after qualifying in the final place with 14.900.

They will meet double world pommel horse champion Krisztian Berki but Croatian Filip Ude, who won silver four years ago, did not make the last eight.