World Gymnastics 2011: British women celebrate London 2012 spots

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
GB women's gymnastics team

Great Britain will send a full complement of female gymnasts to London 2012 after finishing eighth in team qualifying at the World Championships.

GB qualified for the 2011 team final by the skin of their teeth, which allows them to send five women to the Games.

Beth Tweddle reached the floor final in Tokyo but will not defend her uneven bars title having failed to qualify.

"Even if it's only just, it doesn't matter. We got that top-eight spot," Tweddle told BBC Sport.

Qualification at the Worlds, spread over two days, carries considerable weight as it determines not only this year's finalists but also places at next year's Games.

Not since Los Angeles in 1984 - which was boycotted by top gymnasts from the Eastern Bloc - have Britain sent full men's and women's teams to an Olympics.

Half of the battle to do the same at London 2012 is now won, albeit in the most dramatic of circumstances.

With a top-eight finish required to qualify, Britain's six gymnasts gathered together having scored a combined total of 220.553 and nervously watched a scoreboard to discover if they had done enough.

France's score of 216.827, the last to be confirmed, allowed the British to breathe easy. They qualified by less than one mark, Italy having posted a score of 219.578 to finish ninth.

"It wasn't the way we wanted to qualify. There are so many emotions," said Tweddle.

"As soon as we were stood waiting for that score, I think all of us wanted to cry. We wanted to see that eighth spot knowing we could just prepare for 2012."

A slightly less nerve-wracking path to the Games had been expected - the team qualified in a more comfortable fifth place at last year's Worlds - but eighth remains a mission accomplished.

Though Tweddle missed the bars final with an uncharacteristic early error, she qualified for the floor final in seventh place.

"You have good days and bad days - today was a bad day," said the 26-year-old, who won the floor world title in London two years ago.

"I was a bit gutted once I'd finished the bars but I had to carry on for the team."

Hannah Whelan is through to the all-around final, in which 24 gymnasts tackle all four pieces of apparatus - the floor, bars, beam and vault.

"I'll go out there in the final and do my best but I'm just happy we've qualified," said Whelan, 19, who qualified in 13th place. Tweddle, who only competes on the bars and floor, does not enter the all-around.

Team-mate Imogen Cairns added: "I will never feel that emotion ever again. There were tears dripping down our faces, our legs were shaking and tingling.

"All we needed to do was get eighth. I didn't realise it would be so close."

Neither Cairns nor Danusia Francis, Becky Downie or Jenni Pinches reached any individual finals.

Earlier, America's young team had shrugged off a week's build-up dominated by injury with an impressive, confident display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, topping team qualifying.

On the day Nastia Liukin, the Beijing 2008 all-around champion, confirmed she would fight for a place in America's London 2012 team following three years out of the sport, the next generation illustrated the battle she will face.

Jordyn Wieber, 16, showed nerve and buckets of potential on her debut at this level, sweeping into no fewer than four individual finals.

"Our main goal as a team was to come out, have fun and do our best, so - thinking about it that way - it wasn't too hard. It turned out really well," said Wieber.

However, another debutant stole the show as the Russian team qualified in second, scoring a total of 231.062 behind their American rivals' 234.253.

Youth Olympic champion Victoria Komova, also 16, will go up against Wieber in each of those four finals and finished first, ahead of the American, in all-around qualification.

Komova's monster score of 15.733 on the bars demonstrated the threat she poses in Saturday's final but Olympic champion He Kexin of China, also expected to challenge, fell from the apparatus and did not progress. Tweddle eventually finished 13th.

Russia are missing superstar Aliya Mustafina, last year's all-around champion, through ligament damage sustained at the European Championships earlier this year.

Men's qualification begins on Sunday and runs for two days, with Britain set to compete from 0315 BST on Monday.

Britain's men qualified in fourth place at last year's Worlds, in Rotterdam, and will hope for an easier passage to the Games than their female counterparts.

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