London 2012: British rhythmic gymnasts will not go to Olympics

By Ollie WilliamsBBC Sport at the O2 Arena, London

Britain's rhythmic gymnastics team will not go to the Olympics having missed the mark required to prove they are good enough to compete at London 2012.

GB fell 0.273 marks short of the 45.223 target set by their governing body. An appeal to raise that score was refused.

"Nobody thought it would come to this," said British gymnast Rachel Smith.

British Gymnastics performance director Tim Jones confirmed GB will not be sending a team to the Olympic group event as a result of Tuesday's failure.

"We went through a process with the British Olympic Association (BOA) of agreeing a standard we felt would show credible performance," Jones, on the point of tears, told BBC Sport.

"It would have been a score that gave us a platform to launch rhythmic into the next four years, but there wasn't any leeway. They will not be nominated [for London 2012].

"After yesterday, we thought the girls were in a pretty strong position to make the mark we'd agreed with the BOA.

"There were one or two minor errors and they've come up a small amount short. I'm hugely disappointed for them."

The six-strong British team came into the second half of qualifying with an overnight score of 23.100, more than halfway to the mark they needed to hit to ensure they were sent to London 2012.

But early errors in their hoop and ribbon routine cost them points that proved vital as they scored just 21.850 to fall agonisingly short.

The squad, aiming to be the first ever to compete for Britain in the rhythmic gymnastics group event at an Olympics, huddled behind a black curtain away from the crowd after their result became clear.

Britain then launched an appeal, but coach Sarah Moon admitted it had been more in hope than expectation.

"We were just hoping," she said. "It's such a fine margin of error, less than one element [of the routine]. That's one judge making one different decision."

While both British Gymnastics and the BOA made it very clear that this marked the end of the group's Olympic hopes, the gymnasts themselves appeared unclear about their future and adamant they could still reach London 2012.

"We're ready to come back tomorrow to everyone that we deserve to go. It can't just be done on that. We need to prove tomorrow that we should be at the Olympics," said Smith.

"This isn't the last you're going to see of this group. We'll carry on training, we'll go to other competitions, we'll show to everyone - we can do it. We're not messing around. Nobody's having a joke here. We're being serious. We want to go."

Team-mate Lynne Hutchison added: "I really thought we had it. I thought we were going to do it. But not today. I don't think it's the end, we can show a credible performance, show we're good enough and hopefully we might get something."

However, BBC Sport understands results on Wednesday or at any future date in the run-up to the Games will have no bearing on the group's Olympic fortunes. Their chances rested entirely on Tuesday's results.

The British squad, based in Bath, had almost entirely funded themselves with the help of parents, having not qualified for funding from UK Sport.

The British Olympic Association took the step of bringing in ice dancing legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean in December, who coached the gymnasts on their artistry in a bid to help them sway the judges in their favour.

In the individual rhythmic event, which is separate, Francesca Jones is still expected to compete at London 2012 for Britain.

Jones, who represented Wales at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, finished last of 25 at the test event with a score of 88.600, 21 points behind Russian victor Daria Kondakova.

Unlike the Britons competing in the group event, Jones reached last year's World Championships, which proved enough to get the nod to compete at the Olympics. Her scores at the test event do not affect Britain's place in the individual event at the Games.