World Gymnastics 2011: Britain fifth in women's team final
World Gymnastics Championships
- Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Japan
- Dates: 7-16 October
Coverage: Watch the finals live on BBC Red Button and online from 11-16 October, with highlights on BBC Two
Great Britain's women achieved their best-ever result as they finished an impressive fifth in the World Gymnastics team final in Tokyo.
Beth Tweddle produced a stunning uneven bars routine, probably her last at world level, to lead the way.
"I wanted to prove that I am still up there, I am one of the top bar workers, and don't forget me for London 2012," the 26-year-old told BBC Sport.
The United States cruised to victory ahead of Russia and China.
Chinese gymnasts unexpectedly fell on beam and bars to remove them from the contest for gold while Russia's latest all-around superstar, Viktoria Komova, appeared lacklustre in her first world final.
Romania placed fourth but Britain finished hot on their heels in the strongest-ever GB performance at this level.
"We've been training so hard and the qualification [where Britain scraped into the final in eighth place] was really tense for us," said Tweddle, who is expected to retire from the sport after the London Olympics.
"To come out and do 12 routines with no mistakes is all we can ask for. We were only three marks behind Romania and with an upgrade on vault - where we've had an unlucky year with a couple of injuries - that'll pull our scores up for next year."
“I was a lot more relaxed about it tonight and I couldn't have asked for a better routine”
Not since 1928 has a British women's team finished higher than this at Olympic level, when they won bronze in Amsterdam, and the team will be far happier using this as a barometer for 2012 than their comparatively average qualifying performance.
Tweddle drove her team-mates forward from the off with an excellent floor routine, but her display on uneven bars - earning a score of 15.666, the highest of the night on that apparatus - makes it all the more distressing for Britain that a mistake in qualifying cost her a place in the individual bars final.
"I was a lot more relaxed about it tonight and I couldn't have asked for a better routine," she said.
"I was thinking that if it didn't work, it wouldn't matter, as it wasn't for team qualification any more. But in another way I'm a perfectionist, I wanted to prove a point."
In an evening free of major GB mistakes at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, all-around specialist Hannah Whelan recovered from two smaller errors in her floor routine to cap off her night with a strong display on beam.
BEST OF BRITISH
- Fifth place in Tokyo is the highest a British men's or women's gymnastics team has ever finished at a World Championships
- The previous best was set in Rotterdam last year, when the women and men both finished seventh
- Britain's women won an Olympic bronze medal at Amsterdam 1928 but no GB team has finished on the podium at an Olympics since, though Louis Smith won individual bronze in 2008
Whelan, Imogen Cairns and Danusia Francis came through the vault intact before Whelan and Becky Downie buttressed Tweddle's dominant bars display.
The trio of Whelan, Francis and Jenni Pinches held their nerve on beam - in the past, Britain's fatal weakness - to claim fifth place.
This result is of impeccably timed comfort to the sport in Britain following the men's inauspicious exit from their team competition on Monday, where they missed their first opportunity to qualify for London 2012.
But gold medals meant even more to a young United States team, led by 16-year-old phenomenon Jordyn Wieber, who came through a build-up hampered by injuries to record victory by a remarkably wide margin.
They were helped by errors elsewhere. Chinese hopes of victory plummeted with falls from Huang Qiushuang on bars and Tan Sixin on beam, while Komova lacked edge with her routines despite qualifying in first place, ahead of Wieber, for Thursday's all-around final.
But the overall US score of 179.411, a four-point cushion over Russia's 175.329, was as much down to American excellence and strength in depth.
With the likes of Beijing Olympic champions Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, plus the injured Alicia Sacramone, all fighting for places in the 2012 squad, the Americans look set to form a powerful force inside London's O2 Arena at the Games.
China scored 172.820, Romania 172.412 and Britain 169.670, ahead of Germany, Japan on a disappointing night for the hosts, and Australia.
In Wednesday's men's team final, devoid of British interest, Japan are considered the favourites inside an arena where their men won Olympic team gold at the Tokyo 1964 Games.
However, the Chinese will look to improve on their comparatively tame outing in qualifying, where they placed third, and a strong United States team should also challenge.