Rhythmic gymnasts hope for impact

08 August 2012 / 13:09

Great Britain's rhythmic gymnastics have overcome a rocky road to reach the Olympic Games but they are now ready to face the challenge, according to coach Sarah Moon.

The six-strong team of Rachel Smith, Louisa Pouli, Francesca Fox, Lynne Hutchison, Jade Faulkner and Georgina Cassar had looked set to miss out on the Games in January when they missed the target score set by British Gymnastics in the group all-around qualifying competition at the test event.

However, the group successfully appealed the decision meaning they will fill a host nation place and become the first rhythmic group to represent Great Britain in the history of the Olympic Games in Thursday's qualifying.

Moon told Press Association Sport: "It's been a real whirlwind of a year with lots of ups and downs and lots of hoops to jump through. But we are here and we are going and we are extremely proud to be representing Great Britain and very excited to be a part of Team GB.

"The events that happened in January were very, very stressful.

"We had a very stressful six weeks and we had a lot of sleepless nights, but I think in a very ironic way it has made me and the girls stronger as individuals, stronger as a group and much more determined to succeed at this competition and to develop their life skills and how to manage yourself in these situations.

"They have been a great credit to themselves and the sport."

Pouli, who was raised in Greece but now lives in Bath where the group's full-time training programme is based, cannot wait to become an Olympian after years spent training and raising cash in a bid to fulfil the dream of competing at the London Games.

"It is very exciting," she said. "I can't really describe how we all feel, but we have been trying to keep our focus on training but also enjoy the hype of it all.

"There has been a lot of attention on us and I suppose we shouldn't be surprised after all that has happened but it can only be a good thing for us and the sport and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us."

Cassar admitted she cannot quite believe that they have finally made to the Games.

She said: "It's amazing. It's a bit weird and we're still taking it all in. We're walking around and just enjoying every minute of it. To compete here, if we can inspire just a few people, it will be a success."

Britain's artistic gymnasts have enjoyed the most successful Olympics in their history after they won four medals - matching the total medal haul from all previous Games at just one Olympics - and Pouli hopes Britain's participation in the rhythmic competition will inspire more youngsters to take up the sport.

She said: "It is a chance for the sport to be more well known in this country and it would be great if there were to be a team in Rio. Hopefully this will publicise the sport and make the next generation want to pick it up and get involved. We want to go out there and enjoy it, we want to do our best and that is all we can ask of ourselves."

Faulkner added: "It shows there is really great support from the public for us. We want to raise rhythmic gymnastics to a higher status in Great Britain. It's great being part of a huge team. Every time we see someone in a Team GB track suit we go over and talk to them."

In the individual all-around competition, Britain will be represented by Francesca Jones, who is also competing thanks to a host nation place. Jones is a six-time British champion and has taken part in three World Championships four European Championships and two Commonwealth Games.