European Gymnastics: Great Britain qualify in style for team final

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
GB qualify for team gymnastics final

Great Britain's women produced a stunning display to qualify for Saturday's team final ahead of reigning champions Romania at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

The five-strong squad topped the standings with 172.147 points.

Rebecca Downie (bars & beam), debutant Claudia Fragapane (floor & vault) and Rebecca Tunney (bars) all qualified for Sunday's individual finals.

"I've been telling the girls all week we could do it," Downie told BBC Sport.

Romania scored 171.130 points from 12 routines across four apparatus.

The only time Britain's women have won a European team medal was in 2010, when the squad, which included Downie and the now retired Beth Tweddle, finished second in Birmingham.

Downie, 22, who has not claimed a major individual international honour since the 2006 Commonwealth Games, underlined her potential for success in Sofia with the joint highest score of 15.100 in qualification for the uneven bars final.

"I've tried to take the pressure off myself this year after missing out on the Olympics and being desperate to succeed," she said. "The new approach seems to be working."

London Olympian Tunney, 17, also reached the bars final, but Ruby Harrold was denied a place despite achieving the top-eight result she needed as each nation can only field two athletes.

Hannah Whelan, a two-time Olympian, produced a well-executed beam routine, finishing ninth with 14.091.

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"Today was mainly about the team and we're so pleased with how we all performed, but the bars was also a big boost for me in a really competitive event," Tunney told BBC Sport.

Fragapane, 16, who has an Italian father but was born in Bristol, had never competed internationally for Great Britain before.

However, she produced a sublime performance on the floor to score 14.766, which was only bettered by Romania's three-time European champion Larisa Iordache (15.000).

"It wasn't easy to stay calm out there, but I managed to put any nerves to the back of my mind and I'm really happy with how I performed," said Fragapane, who also reached the vault final.

Britain's girls will look to follow up the team silver they won on Wednesday when they return for the junior all-around finals on Friday.

European Artistic Gymnastics schedule (all times in BST):

Saturday 17th May - senior women's team final (13:00-14:40)

Sunday 18th May - senior and junior apparatus finals (juniors 07:30-09:50; seniors 12:00-14:20)