BBC BLOGS - Ollie Williams
« Previous | Main | Next »

Inside the World Gymnastics

Post categories:

Ollie Williams | 23:39 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The action has been unrelenting over the first two days of the World Gymnastics Championships.

In that time, we've seen more than 24 solid hours of gymnastics action. It's been a feast for the eyes, with plenty to grab the attention on and off the apparatus.

Here are some photos from around the arena, and a taste of what's been going on away from Louis Smith's pommel horse heroics and Beth Tweddle's uneven bars disappointment.

And if you want more, you can check out regular updates on Twitter, and the rest of our photos on Flickr.

Left: BBC broadcast equipment. Right: Matt Baker hard at work

Here's Matt Baker - former gymnast, ex-Blue Peter presenter and now gymnastics guru for the BBC - hard at work leafing through notes during women's qualifying.

On the left is one of the many bits of kit we've got up here. That box controls the microphone and headset for Christine Still, top British coach and Matt's BBC colleague at the Worlds, during our live broadcasts for the rest of the week.

During a break in qualifying on Tuesday, Matt and commentator Mitch Fenner could be found messing about with GarageBand, a piece of software which lets you make your own songs.

They're threatening to record a duet by the time the week is out. I'll take suggestions for any covers you'd like to hear, if only to head off the prospect of an original composition.

Matt's enthusiasm for gymnastics is irrepressible and contagious. At one point another former gymnast, Craig Heap, had to hold him down to stop the leaping around that inevitably follows every British performance.

Christine Still (left) and Beth Tweddle

After her fall from the uneven bars on Wednesday, Beth Tweddle - on the right, above - contemplated her future as she watched Becky Downie in the evening qualifying session, with Christine Still on the left in front of her.

Tweddle braved the BBC cameras in the immediate aftermath of her fall, which doesn't get any easier to watch, no matter how many times I see it.

"I got back up and the crowd cheering me on was fantastic - they finished the routine for me," she said.

"When I landed I knew my final had gone and to hear them cheering makes you feel that little bit better."

Rebecca Wing (left) and technicians fixing the floor

Going down a storm at the World Championships are the British leotards.

I'm told that when some of the girls were presented with their kit, they were pretty underwhelmed.

But the leotards look the business under the arena spotlights, illuminating the Union Jack picked out in sequins.

Less well-received has been the surface of the floor exercise area.

On several occasions, technicians have been spotted lifting up the mat and rummaging beneath (above right), applying liberal stretches of duct tape in an effort to fix an unspecified issue.

Not that anybody, to my knowledge, has been brave enough to use that as an excuse.

Bridget Sloan (left) with her coach (right)

US star Bridget Sloan finished fifth in the all-around on Wednesday, reaching two finals, but had a face of fury (above left) after her disappointing performance on the balance beam.

She and her coach watched her competitors silently in the aftermath, but Sloan turned things around with a superb performance on the uneven bars.

The US gymnasts had a fine day, with four women securing seven final berths.

"SOOOO proud of all my girls!" tweeted another big name in US gymnastics - Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic champion. She isn't competing in London after a summer packed with commercial and TV commitments.

Fans at the O2 (left), Alison Mitchell's neatly-ruled notes (right)

Fans at the O2 Arena (some of whom are pictured, above left) have been enjoying plenty of enthralling action, but they'd like one tiny addition: an idea of who's winning.

I've spoken to audience members who say the two scoreboards are nigh-on useless for most events, as they only show the score of each gymnast currently performing, and a run-down of the overall scores.

That's useful for the all-around competition (which uses the overall scores as its basis), but means it's hard to catch a glimpse of who's leading on any one set of apparatus, like the vault or the beam.

At one point, we had Beth Tweddle leaning over to ask the BBC team where she stood in the floor event qualifying.

If Beth can't find out how she's getting on without asking us, how are the fans supposed to know? (You can always ask me on Twitter, by the way - several people in the arena did!)

Hopefully it won't be as big a problem for the finals, where fewer things will be happening at once.

But whatever happens, you can rely on the immaculate note-taking of BBC Radio 5 live's Alison Mitchell (pictured, above right).

Ali spent the morning neatly ruling her notepad and diligently copying across notes from her time at the gymnastics in Beijing last summer.

Matt Baker tried to convince me that his colour-coded pre-printed system was better, but I still prefer my method: ask Matt or Ali for the answer.

That's what some of Ali's followers on Twitter have been doing, too.

Most of them are used to her regular updates from cricket matches across the globe, so she's been struggling to explain the intricacies of gymnastics to hardened members of the Barmy Army.

Her verdict? "Still love cricket, but this is seriously cool. Must practice my double twisting double back."


  • Comment number 1.

    great blog ollie! its nice to see the lesser known sports and reporters getting some home page time. ill look out for some more blogs and perhaps an item on village cricket..........

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Ollie, I'm glad you mentioned the information debacle. I was there for the whole two days of qualifiers (and will be going back for the rest), and it was really annoying to see all these wonderful gymnasts performing but being unable to figure out who they were or how they were doing! I think the organisers missed a great opportunity to trial out some cutting-edge technology by providing spectators with electronic devices able to display historical data and live results. That way each fan could have really felt totally involved!

  • Comment number 3.

    Yes, the scoreboard was almost useless as one end of the stadium could not even see it. Most of the time it ran a running leaderboard of all the gymnasts in qualifying thus far... about 100 of them??
    And I think the constantly moving lit "ticker" display around the whole stadium above level one is distracting on the television screen. God knows what the gymnasts thought of it.
    Other than that, a good venue for gymnastics.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.