Great Britain’s men won an astonishing Olympic bronze medal in the gymnastics team final – having originally taken silver before a Japanese appeal.
538_gbgymreaction.png”>Louis Smith, Sam Oldham, Kristian Thomas, Max Whitlock and Dan Purvis produced the first Olympic medal for a GB men’s team since a bronze in 1912.
China cruised to gold with GB second, as the medal prospects of the United States and Germany disintegrated.
But Japan, initially placed in fourth, moved up to second after an appeal.
The Japanese team were unhappy with the pommel horse score awarded to Kohei Uchimura and, after lengthy deliberation by the officials, were elevated ahead of Britain, Ukraine missing out on a bronze medal in the process.
The result is beyond the expectations of the British team at this event, even though they qualified for the final in third place and knew they had the ability to challenge for a medal.
Before the final nobody 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 three-times world all-around champion Kohei Uchimura.
The importance of a medal to the sport of gymnastics 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 Louis 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 the first Britons in a men’s team final in 88 years.
And Smith delivered handsomely in his specialist event with a score of 15.966.
GB suffered a dip on rings, their weakest piece, but 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 in Tokyo – only for Thomas to again throw everything at his own high bar routine and keep their 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 ultimately successful appeal, to be 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 medals may be bronze, but the performance heralds a golden era.