European Gymnastics: GB women win team silver in Bulgaria

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter in Sofia
Great Britain's women win European silver medal

Great Britain's women matched their best-ever team result at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships by claiming silver in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Hannah Whelan, Rebecca Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Rebecca Tunney and Ruby Harrold scored 170.633 points from 12 routines across four apparatus.

Reigning champions Romania (172.754) took gold, with Russia (169.329) in third place.

"We've worked so hard for this and deserve it 100%," said Whelan.

Britain's previous medal in the event came in 2010 when the squad - which included the now-retired Beth Tweddle - finished second in Birmingham.

Downie, who competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is the only member of the 2010 line-up still in the GB team.

"It's a totally different team [to 2010] with totally different expectations, and I think everybody really stepped up to the mark today," the 22-year-old told BBC Sport.

"We really couldn't have done any more, I'm really proud of everyone."

Led by two-time Olympian Whelan, 21, Britain had led the qualification standings on Thursday and began with a solid display in the final on the beam which put them fourth in the rankings.

Despite an impressive routine from 16-year-old debutant Fragapane on the floor they remained in fourth place at the halfway stage.

They began to make progress in the third rotation as Beijing Olympian Downie produced a stunning vault.

Downie, Tunney and Harrold then delivered under pressure in the final event, the uneven bars, to secure Britain their place on the podium.

GB qualify for team gymnastics final

"I'm speechless, I'm so happy," said Fragapane. "I love this team and to do so well is amazing."

The Bristol-born teenager, who has an Italian father, will return of the individual floor and vault finals on Sunday, as will Downie (uneven bars and vault) and Tunney (bars).

"Silver is a great result for the team," added Roy Headey, British Gymnastics head of performance.

"We always have one eye on the 2016 Rio Olympics and today gave me a lot of belief about how we are progressing.

"Our task now is to analyse how Romania are achieving their scores and see how we can make gradual improvements so we can get up to that level ourselves.

"It's really pleasing to see how the team performed under pressure today."

European Artistic Gymnastics schedule (all times in BST):

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