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Keatings and Britain step out of the shadows

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Ollie Williams | 22:53 UK time, Thursday, 15 October 2009

Daniel Keatings couldn't sleep on Wednesday night. He and his room-mate, fellow British gymnast Kristian Thomas, tried to get to bed at 10pm.

An hour later, they were both wide awake. Thoughts of rest and preparation went out of the window. They put the TV on and talked into the small hours.

Sleep is unlikely to come easy in the wake of Thursday's historic achievements either. Keatings has a World Championship silver medal around his neck, unprecedented in British history, while Thomas was a hugely creditable sixth in the all-around final at the O2 Arena.

The young duo have revolutionised the country's expectations in one evening, and Keatings, barely known outside the sport, has already declared he is ready to battle for Olympic gold.

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British Gymnastics could not have scripted this. For decades, they hadn't a prayer in international competitions of this calibre.

Medals? Forget it. Jaded commentators would coast their way through a decent but unthreatening plucky-Brit performance, then move on to the real contenders.

Sixteenth place was the best a British man had managed in this event, until now.

In the run-up to the World Championships, most of the focus had been on Louis Smith.

The Olympic bronze medallist will get his chance to shine in Saturday's pommel horse final but Keatings takes centre stage for now.

"I've sat in the shadow of Louis, but that means I've been able to work hard and carry on training," said the new talisman of British Olympic aspiration soon after stepping down from the medal rostrum.

"It's helped me, Louis taking the limelight, but I'm definitely ready to take some of that now. It'll be great working alongside him towards 2012. It'll push me on the pommel and everything else. Just being alongside him is a good thing."

Daniel Keatings celebrates his silver with the other medallistsKeatings waves to the crowd after receiving his silver medal

As an all-rounder who competes in six events instead of one, Keatings can reasonably claim to be a better gymnast than Smith - not that the calm and softly-spoken 19-year-old ever would.

But he has worked and worked and worked to get to this point in his career.

He took up gymnastics aged five, was training three or four times each week by the age of eight, and dedicated at least 32 hours each week to his sport, around his schoolwork, by the time he was 12.

"You have to be really dedicated and make a lot of sacrifices," he said. "My friends are really supportive of that - they like to see me achieve - and it means I'm ready to take on all the hard work in the run-up to London 2012."

The Union Square bar, a stone's throw from the gymnastics arena inside the O2, was packed on Thursday night with gymnasts, coaching staff and hangers-on celebrating Keatings' achievement.

The Corby boy's best friends, girlfriend, sister, mother, father and grandparents were all in the arena, alongside thousands of home fans, to see him hold up a medal which means so much to an entire sport.

But Keatings, tasting this kind of success for the first time, has already set the bar higher.

Kohei Uchimura, the Japanese star who produced awe-inspiring routines all evening and then said he'd had a bad day at the office, is a daunting opponent, but Keatings wants to take him on and beat him.

"I'm very confident now, and I've still got a lot to put into my routines that I've been working on," he said.

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"I'm going to try to compete up there with Uchimura. He is the best gymnast in the world, but I'd like to think I can get to his standard. Give me a couple of years and I'll be there."

That would be convenient timing. We will be back here in 2012, in these same seats in the very same venue, to see if he makes it happen.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    You know where Daniel is from, but the main report on the website is wrong and says he's from Kettering - http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/gymnastics/8309840.stm. He's a Corby boy and proud of it. You should correct the error.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well done Daniel, I was lucky enough to be there and we thought it looked a bit dodgy after the floor routine but you conquered your nerves, focused and proved that you are a winner, especially when all the pressure was on during the last rotation on the high bar. Uchimura looked awesome but keep working hard and when we see you back in the O2 in 2012 you'll be able to go one step further.

  • Comment number 3.

    It is a sad day for Gymnastics, Yuri Ryazanov pictured above and who took the bronze medal behind Daniel Keatings tragically died in a car crash on his way home from the World Championships.

    Yuri, was a bright young star for the Russian team and had a great career ahead of him, our thoughts are with his Friends and Family on this sad day.

 

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