THERE were broad smiles at the Hydro yesterday, together with floods of tears and no little confusion in an emotional, sometimes shambolic, day of artistic gymnastics, at the end of which Scotland secured a team medal for the first time in the history of the sport.
There had been four previous gymnastics medals for Scotland at the Commonwealth Games, most notably Steve Frew’s gold in 2002, but they were all for individuals. Frank Baines, Adam Cox, Liam Davie, Dan Keatings and Dan Purvis made history here with an unprecedented show of collective strength.
Having occupied second position after Monday’s opening session – on the floor, the pommel horse and the rings – they consolidated it with improved performances in the high bar, vault and parallel bars. It was enough to hold off Canada, who took bronze, but not England – with Louis Smith in their ranks – who won gold.
It meant a lot to all of them, for different reasons, but for Cox, it was particularly special. He won individual bronze for his performance on the high bar in Melbourne eight years ago, but he withdrew from the team for Delhi 2010 in protest that his coach, Tan Jia En, had been made redundant.
Cox walked away from the sport, so disillusioned was he with its politics, but after watching London 2012 on the television, he decided to give it one more go. And what a go it was by the 27-year-old Livingston PE teacher who now looks likely to hang up his leotard.
“This means absolutely everything to me,” he said. “I came back into this two years ago because I wanted to rewrite the ending to my gymnastics career and I really feel that with the help of these boys I’ve been able to do that.
“I can’t get my head around it. We had a really ambitious plan to go for gold, but silver was always our gameplan and we would have been happy walking away having been on the podium.”
The only pity was that the result was so slow to be confirmed. In what can only be described as absurd scheduling, the medal-winning teams’ work was done by mid-afternoon, leaving another session still to be completed. Mathematically, the Scots could still be caught, but it was about as likely as a 50-goal swing on the final day of a football season.
No sooner had the Hydro announcer congratulated the teams on their medals success than she was back on, warning that, actually, the outcome had yet to be confirmed. While the First Minister’s PR machine whirred into action, heralding the 34th – and record-breaking medal – for Scotland, Games officials on the ground were refusing to admit it.
All of which was less than ideal for the crowd who left the afternoon session a little confused as to whether they had seen a medal won or not.
Neither was it fair on those who bought more expensive tickets for the evening session, doubtless under the impression that they were attending the main event.
They had missed all the action, some of it good, some of it bad, all of it nerve-wracking. Young Davie was a gibbering wreck after a rollercoaster of a session in which he caught his chest on the high bar, ruined his chances of reaching the individual final and somehow recovered enough composure to help his team over the line.
Keatings lost his footing as he dismounted the parallel bars, but he redeemed himself on the vault and high bar to give his career the medal it deserves.
The 24-year-old Kettering-born athlete, whose father is from Edinburgh, competed for Team GB at the 2008 Olympic Games, but he missed London 2012 through injury. His part in the 2006 Commonwealth Games ended with three spinal stress fractures.
Then there was Baines, who played a blinder here less than a year after fracturing vertebrae in his neck and back. According to Cox, the future of Scottish gymnastics is in safe hands.
“Frank’s about nine years younger than me,” said Cox. “They are going to go to the very top. Dan and Dan have already done Olympics and Frank was a fantastic junior European. He had an unfortunate injury with his neck, but he has come back really strong.
“There was a little bit of nerves today but that’s to be expected in his first major. He is going to go from strength to strength and I’ve absolutely no doubt that he will probably be in contention for the world championships later this year and he will be smashing out the Olympics in Rio.”
Cox described Scotland’s total – 257.603 – as “massive”, one that would be hard to beat in Queensland four years hence. Whether he can be persuaded to be among those who try remains to be seen. After his final vault at the Hydro, he celebrated as though it were the last of his career, but he refused to admit as much later.
“Never say never,” he said. “It was a bronze in Melbourne, a silver here. . . Gold Coast is ringing in my ears. We’ll have to see what happens. My wife is 17 weeks pregnant so come January there’ll be something else taking up a lot of my time. I’m sure the teachers would like to see me back in the schools.
“Being a part of this team is an honour. The boys went out and did me proud. I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was buzzing and the crowd were incredible. It’s been one of the best experiences of my life.”