Great Britain’s women’s gymnastics team shocked the sport by becoming the first since 1928 to win a medal in the Olympic team finals as they came from behind to secure bronze in dramatic fashion on Tuesday.
“I cannot believe this, this is more than a dream come true,” said Jennifer Gadirova. “My dream was to make the Olympics and experience it and even being here is an achievement in itself. Our biggest aim was to make Paris 2024. Let alone coming away with a medal. It is incredible and there are words to describe it.”
Having started the final with an unsatisfactory routine from Amelie Morgan on the balance beam, the British team of twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova, Alice Kinsella and Morgan rallied resolutely as they went under the radar, with most eyes on Japan, China or Italy to nab the bronze medal.
Kinsella said: “With beam we had one fall and we put that behind us, we smashed beam and went to floor and smashed floor and vault, that’s when we knew we could do this. Then we smashed bars and we did it.”
After trailing for much of the competition, Britain moved up into contention with a strong vault rotation anchored by the Gadirova twins, who possess two of the best double twisting Yurchenko vaults in the world, rising to within touching distance of third place as they moved to the uneven bars.
Some teams would be cowed by the possibility but they instead put up a sublime rotation on uneven bars with three excellent routines from Jessica Gadirova, Kinsella and Morgan, outscoring their qualifying routines by over a point. The ROC and USA teams took gold and silver.
“Obviously after vault I looked up and thought: ‘OK, we could potentially get a medal,’” Kinsella said. “So I thought I’m going to go and do the best bar routine I could ever do, which I did. I got a personal best, so I’m really happy with that, then when we saw we came third I was speechless, on the floor, crying and everything.”
There has been much discussion about the selection of the British team, with the four first-time Olympians chosen while world bars silver medallist Rebecca Downie was omitted in controversial circumstances. The gymnasts in Tokyo said they noted all the criticism and used it as motivation to perform.
“We’ve had quite a lot of criticisms saying we’re an inexperienced team, and I think we’ve done so well to put that behind us and we’ve made history,” said Morgan. “We’ve proved it doesn’t matter how old you are, how experienced, we were selected for this team for a reason and we’ve come here and done our job.
“When there’s criticism on social media you are definitely aware of it. You have to try and put it past you but it does stick in your mind, I think for us going out there and proving people wrong was the icing on the cake.”