Olympics gymnastics: Team bronze for Britain after appeal

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Sport at the North Greenwich Arena
GB gymnasts win bronze

Great Britain's men won an astonishing Olympic bronze medal in the gymnastics team final - having originally taken silver before a Japanese appeal.

Louis Smith, Sam Oldham, Kristian Thomas, Max Whitlock and Dan Purvis sealed GB men's first Olympic team medal since a bronze in 1912.

China cruised to gold, with GB second, as the medal prospects of the United States and Germany disintegrated.

Japan, initially placed in fourth, moved up to second after an appeal.

They were unhappy with the pommel horse score awarded to Kohei Uchimura and were elevated above Britain, after lengthy deliberation by the officials, with Ukraine missing out on a bronze medal in the process.

Olympic gymnastics: Bronze in team final is still unbelievable - GB men

The result is beyond the expectations of the British team, even though they qualified for the final in third place and knew they had the ability to challenge for a medal.

"For all these guys, their first Olympic Games, to get a medal is unbelievable," Smith told BBC Sport. "Silver? Bronze? It doesn't matter, we enjoyed it, it was fantastic."

Thomas added: "It's an Olympic medal at the end of the day, it's what dreams are made of. All I could think about was winning an Olympic medal when I was younger.

"Silver would've been nice but I couldn't complain at all right now. We're in London, it's once in a lifetime and we've made the most of it."

Uchimura, whose appeal denied Britain the silver, told reporters through an interpreter: "I feel sorry [for the British]. It's strange to say I feel sorry for them, though. This is the scoring system so I shouldn't feel sorry. This is just the score."

His appeal centred on whether he had been correctly rewarded for a partially botched dismount in his pommel horse routine. The three-time world champion's score was upgraded by 0.7 marks, enough to take Japan past Britain.

Before the final, not many would talk in more than hushed tones of a bronze medal, let alone of beating Japan. So the 10 minutes spent in silver-medal position, before Japan's successful appeal, were breathtaking as a stunned and elated audience tried to take in the scale of the British men's achievement.

China came into the event as defending world and Olympic champions, while Japan's gymnasts have been an improving world power for years, led by gymnastics superstar Uchimura.

The importance of a medal to the sport in Britain, regardless of colour, cannot be overstated. No GB men's team has previously come close to a result of this magnitude in the modern sport.

After Smith's Olympic pommel horse bronze medal in Beijing four years ago, it confirms the giant leaps forward made by British Gymnastics on the world stage.

The British team began on the pommel horse, an ideal introduction for their first appearance in a men's team final in 88 years.

After Smith delivered handsomely in his specialist event with a score of 15.966, GB suffered a dip on rings, their weakest piece.

But then Thomas put in the performance of his life on vault for a score of 16.550 to keep Britain in the hunt for bronze.

As the tension mounted, Oldham endured a costly fall on the high bar - a repeat of his error at last year's World Championships - only for Thomas to throw everything at his high bar routine to keep hopes alive.

Then, as the Japanese suffered a near-unthinkable succession of mistakes on the pommel horse, Whitlock, Purvis and Thomas landed every move of their floor routines to finish.

In a bizarre and confusing finale, the Japanese lodged their successful appeal, which was met with inevitable derision from the home crowd, though replays suggested it had merit.

If that conclusion took the wind out of British sails, it should not. After a glimpse of silver, the performance heralds a golden era.


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