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Set for a breakthrough weekend

Victoria Cotton | 12:15 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

I don’t know if you can hear that distant rumbling but that’s the sound of a British team gathering momentum and starting to become a force on the world stage ahead of 2012.

For years, gymnastics was a sport everyone would watch with awe at the Olympics, watch other countries take home the medals and then watch it disappear over the horizon for another four years.

But then along came Beth Tweddle and with every final she made and every medal she won, our expectations grew and grew, culminating in that extraordinary night in Denmark last October.

I’m lucky enough to have a job that takes me to some of the greatest sporting events that the calendar throws up. Watching that 90-second routine on the uneven bars from the commentary box in Aarhus will always be imprinted in my mind as one of the most impressive performances I’ve ever seen. She became Britain’s first gymnastics world champion with a display of the utmost talent, poise and sheer force of will.

And now she’s leading a British team that has adopted all of those qualities. Last weekend at the start of this year’s World Championships, the women’s team needed to finish in the top 12 to qualify for the Olympics.

This was a young, inexperienced team but not one of them faltered and qualification was secured even before Tweddle took to the uneven bars. They finished sixth in qualifying, their highest ever position.

tweddle438.jpg

And the 'Tweddle effect' is even rolling out on to the men’s gymnastics scene.

They qualified two gymnasts for Beijing after failing to send one to Athens and if you look down among the qualifiers for the pommel final, there, nestled amongst gymnasts from Hungary and China and ahead of gymnasts from Romania, Russia and the USA you’ll find two gymnasts wearing GBR on their vests.

Commonwealth champion Louis Smith and European silver medallist Daniel Keatings have the difficulty of challenging the best in the world and now have the temperament to compete with the best.

This weekend there is a realistic chance of Great Britain coming home from a World Championships with no less than the extra baggage of five medals from more than one source.

Beth will compete in the all-around, uneven bars and floor finals. Instead of being the also-rans, the British team is well on the way to being ranked amongst the also-medalled.

We have a very qualified team to take you through what could be a momentous weekend for British Gymnastics. Matt Baker was part of the British gymnastics squad, Christine Still is director of coaching for Scotland and also coached Amanda Kirby, Beth’s current coach, Mitch Fenner has more years of competing and commentating and coaching than he would care for me to admit to.

We start our coverage on Friday on BBCi with the men’s and women’s all-around competitions. Beth has high hopes of a medal in that after qualifying with the fourth-highest score.

Saturday could see us win three medals, as Beth looks to retain her uneven bars title and Daniel and Louis compete in the pommel final. Sunday sees Beth competing on the floor.


Friday
BBCi:
1300-1600 for the Men's all-around title
1700-2000 for the Women's all around title

Saturday
BBCi:
1300-1600 - Full coverage of the individual apparatus finals - Men's floor, women's vault, men's pommel, Uneven Bars, Men's rings

BBC ONE:
2pm-4pm - Highlights of the Women's and Men's all around competition and the day's individual apparatus finals.

Sunday
BBCi:
1300-1600 - Full coverage of the individual apparatus finals - Men's vault, women's beam, men's parallel bars, women's floor, men's high bar

BBC TWO:
1800 - Highlights of the days individual finals

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