GB Gymnastics: Louis Smith ready and focused ahead of Games

By Saj ChowdhuryBBC Sport

Louis Smith said he has learned how to cope with growing expectations since becoming the first British male gymnast to win an Olympic medal for a century.

The 23-year-old is fancied to repeat, if not better, his Beijing feat at London 2012 when the pommel-horse competition begins on 27 July.

"I was listening to the hype, thinking that I had to win," said Smith.

"I felt I had to prove a point, when really I didn't. The only person I have to prove a point to is to myself."

Since the 2008 Olympics, Smith has been a European silver medallist three times, and has won silver and bronze at the world championships.

Despite the haul of medals, the Huntingdon club gymnast is a fierce critic of himself.

"The majority of my mistakes are not because of increased media attention," added Smith, who will have to negotiate qualifying on Saturday. "The errors I have made in competition were made because I was not in the right frame of mind.

"The last four years have been a big learning curve - learning how to deal with expectation and pressure.

"I'm not going to lie, it has been tough. But I now feel I'm in a mentally and physically strong position. I know what to expect and how to deal with it. When the Olympic competition starts it should be like walking into another competition."

In order to win gold in London, the Briton may have to see off Hungary's world champion Krisztian Berki, who defeated Smith at the European championships in May.

Meanwhile, Smith believes he has put himself in a position to reach the pinnacle of his profession because he has avoided the pastimes experienced by his friends outside the sport.

"I wouldn't say I've missed out - missing out is what normal people say," he continued. "I could ask my friends, 'Do you feel you've missed out on the opportunity to be an Olympian?'

"I've experienced things, wonderful things. I've experienced life-changing opportunities through doing what I'm doing.

"I have fantastic friends, fantastic family and I have great sponsorship. It all puts me in a great position to be best gymnast I can be.

"With that, I get to travel world, get to experience competing at the London Olympics. These things I'd happily miss nights out for, a beer in the pub with my friends. This is once in a lifetime. "