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Glasgow 2014: Scots battle England in gymnastics

Louis Smith of England blows chalk from his hand during as he prepared to help his team into the lead on points. Picture: PA

Louis Smith of England blows chalk from his hand during as he prepared to help his team into the lead on points. Picture: PA

  • by LAURA COTTON AT THE HYDRO
 

You might not know your pommel horse from your parallel bars, but yesterday’s gymnastics display made it clear this is going to be all about Scotland and England.

After day one of the artistic qualifying round, Scotland sit second in the men’s team competition – just six points behind first-place England. The Scots are followed by Canada, Wales and Australia.

As expected, one of the main individual rivalries came from the pommel horse. Current European Champion Max Whitlock, Olympic silver medallist Louis Smith and Scotland’s Dan Keatings are the three contenders. It’s the first time the three gymnasts have all faced each other. Whitlock, from England, had the highest qualifying score of 15.733 and was closely followed by his team-mate Smith, who scored 15.700. Keatings lost his European title on the pommel horse to Whitlock earlier this year, and he’ll know he can do better than 14.533.

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There were a few faults on show at the Hydro arena but that didn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.

Scotland coach, Paul Hall, admitted his men weren’t as good as they could’ve been. He said: “You never have perfect days. Lots of teams had lots of mistakes and it’s all about keeping a clear head and concentrating on tomorrow. It’s not over till it’s over. We’ll go back and re-group and see how we get on.”

Most of the Scottish and English gymnasts are used to training together, and even competing together as Team GB. London 2012 star Smith and Keatings go a step further and actually share the same coach in Paul Hall.

“It was a bit weird seeing both Louis on the pommel horse and Dan on the rings,” said Hall. “All of the guys are great friends but great rivals. There’s no love loss when it comes to competition – they’re all against each other and they all want to prove a point.”

Smith, probably more famous recently for his salsa on BBC show Strictly Come Dancing, was making his first official comeback after quitting competitive gymnastics in September 2012.

The 25-year-old Englishman only started training again in January this year, but he was pleased with his team’s performance as well as his own.

“Our main job today was to be as solid as we can. I thought we picked ourselves up from the mistakes we made and finished really strongly. I hope we can do it again tomorrow.

“If I make the pommel horse final on Thursday, I’m definitely going to step up the routine. It depends on where I am. If everyone else has fallen off, I might do an easier one.

“The hardest thing for me was coming back and training. It’s been a tough job to get fit, shed all the weight and get my levels back. I didn’t want to come to the Commonwealth Games and mess up so I’m very happy that I did my job.”

There was a brief visit from royalty as Prince William and Kate took in some of the gymnastics, along with Prince Harry. However, the Scots were the majority inside the bowl-shaped arena and their support even had an effect on Smith.

He said: “It was hard to concentrate because everyone was shouting over us – and almost everyone’s shouting for Scotland. So that was a little bit of a distraction.”

All of the male gymnasts competed on the pommel horse, floor and rings. Today they will compete on the remaining apparatus – vault, parallel bars and high bars. The female gymnasts also started their artistic qualifying competition last night.

Amy Regan, who narrowly missed out on a medal at the Delhi Games in 2010, was very happy with her team’s solid performance. The 19-year-old, from Giffnock, said: “We’ve been doing really well in training and we did what we hoped to do. I hope we can do more of the same tomorrow.”

Her team-mate, Emma White, also suffered disappoint at Delhi – she injured her knee in training leading up the Games. So she was understandably delighted, saying “after what happened to my knee, just being here is an achievement in itself”.

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