National Indoor Stadium, Beijing


That's how much stood between Beth Tweddle and her long-awaited, and deserved, dream of an Olympic medal.

The British gymnast finished fourth in her uneven bars final at the Olympic Gymnastics Hall tonight by the narrowest of margins.

She was pipped by tiny Chinese sensation Yang Yilin, who is just 16 (but looks about 13) and who pulled off a wonderful routine which ended with a full-length somersault (apologies gymastics' fans if there is a proper name for this) and stuck the landing for a 16.650.

Yang's dismount was greeted with a huge roar from the home crowd, and brought a beaming smile to her young face.


The crowd erupted again as she trotted down off the platform to be lifted aloft like a small trophy by her coach.

The stadium was still ringing as Tweddle, seventh out of the eight competitors, came up the steps to prepare the bars for her routine.

I don't think the commotion put her off - anyone who has ever been to an international gymnastics event will testify how much is going on during the routines, stuff you just do not see or hear on the TV pictures or radio commentary.

For instance, I was at the women's team event last week, in which four teams compete on four apparatus in rotation.

There is no standing on ceremony, as each gymnast goes at the same time on their piece of apparatus (bars, beam, floor or vault).

So while the Italian gymnast was desperately trying to compose herself and clear her mind after falling from the beam, five members of the US team were literally bawling their heads off in support of superstar Shawn Johnson as she built for her final tumble.

It's all part of what makes gymnastics such a great live spectator sport.

Tonight, it was the Chinese fans and coaches making the most noise, yelling in high-pitched support sounding like a flock of lost lambs as Yang went through her moves.

Still, Tweddle, a true ambassador for her sport, did not let it faze her as she focused on her routine, at 7.8 tariff, the most difficult on show.

Had she nailed it, a medal would have been hers.

But the gamble did not pay off. She came late out of her final turn and did not have enough power for the dismount.

Her mark of 16.625 was still an extremely creditable score and higher than that which won her the World Championships in 2006.

She seemed to know it would be tight as she waited for the scores - she gave a big puff of her cheeks and took a big swig of water with two cameras trained just feet from her face waiting to capture her reaction.

BBC TV presenter Adrian Chiles had also popped into the hall to watch -"more stressful than watching football!" he said up in the stands.

When the score came, she shrugged it off with a wry half-smile and tossed her hand-guards down, the model of professionalism, trying not to let her disappointment show.

There were a few forced hugs all round (there did not seem to be much love lost down on the floor - when Tweddle took her seat next to Steliana Nistor to await her turn, the Romanian immediately got up and went and found another chair).

And as He Kexin, Nastasia Liukin and Yang lined up for the medal parade, Tweddle could only look forlornly up into the crowd for support from her British fan club.

And then it was over, Tweddle leaving the hall with the other gymnasts, pinching her (watery?) eyes and shaking her head.

Before the Games she'd said she was going to retire but she told BBC gymnastics commentator Matt Baker she was planning to carry on.

"I don't see myself quitting now, although I will have some time off," she said.

However, her chance of an Olympic medal is gone - she'll be 27 by the time London 2012 comes along, which is pretty ancient in gymnastics terms.

It was all over so quickly.

Gymnasts do not muck about - the whole final took less than 30 minutes and Beth's routine was over in less than two minutes.

Two minutes, 0.025 of a mark - and bang, all gone.

She told Baker it was time to handover the mantle to young gymnasts such as Louis Smith, who was in the crowd watching her final.

I wanted to ask Smith - who I can confirm has an extremely fine pair of pecs - what he thought of Beth's legacy.

But he told me he could not speak without his press officer which was a shame, though no doubt he was just doing what he has been told.

Instead, I will have to leave it to Baker speak for Tweddle.

"Beth Tweddle is a gymnast who has changed British gymnastics.

"She has been such an inspiration for so many aspiring British gymnasts, who now realise that it is possible to get a medal at the highest level."

In his Blue Peter presenting days, Baker had filed a report on young Smith, from Peterborough, when he won the European Junior Championships, and Baker said it had been nice to follow it through by reporting on his historic bronze medal win on Sunday.

"He is the future now."

Claire Stocks is the BBC's interactive editor for Olympic sports. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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