The British Are Coming
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The British Are Coming!
By Elizabeth Grimsley
There is already pressure to perform well and make the Olympic team, but even more so when the Olympics are held in your homeland. “To be able to compete at an Olympic games in my home country would be an amazing, unforgettable and a once in lifetime experience,” Great Britain Olympic-hopeful Hannah Whelan said. “I can only imagine how fantastic the atmosphere will be in a few months time!” And for once, the ten men and women that are fortunate enough to make the team won’t have to travel hours upon hours to just get to the competition. The fact that they will be competing in front of a home crowd will add on even more pressure to perform well. “The home crowd is a huge factor, but it does naturally bring pressure to all of the Team GB athletes,” Great Britain Olympic-hopeful Louis Smith said. “We have to work out the best way to use that to our advantage and not let the occasion overawe us.”
But before the games even begin, Smith and Whelan have to first focus on making the five-member team, beating out many other strong athletes. “My training has been going really well,” Whelan said. “I had a very successful European Championships, which is great for my preparation for the Olympics. I've been working on cleaning up my routines, I have a few new skills I've been working on that may or may not be ready for the Olympics. For now, I'm focusing on clean routines that I can do well.” For Smith, experience is key, which makes his recent success at the European Championships that much more of a moral booster with the Games edging closer. “There's a lot of fine tuning going on at the moment and it's important for me to be able to practice them in a competition environment,” he said. “The European Championships in Montpellier were a great chance to get three clean routines under my belt and to return with team gold and individual silver was brilliant.”
The main goal of Smith and Whelan—and everyone– is to show consistency and preparedness when the time comes. “For me, I think the key is just to keep doing what I'm doing,” Smith said. “It's obviously a massive year, but I want my progression to remain constant and ensure that I peak at the right time. So I've been working as hard as always in the gym and making sure that my routines are well-rehearsed and competitive in terms of scores.”
With so many good gymnasts in the running, Smith says that you “can’t take anything for granted because those slots [on the team] are so hotly contested.” “We have a lot of depth now within our team on the men's and women's side,” Whelan said. “We now have many talented gymnasts to choose from for the Olympics.” So until the selection all Smith says that all he can do is put himself in “the best position possible to be named to the team” and stay injury free. “Should I have that chance, my main ambition at the Games will be to do my routines clean,” Smith said. “If I do that I'll know I've done everything I can to do myself justice, and what happens beyond that is out of my hands.” For Whelan, the goals stay the same as any. “My goals leading up to the Olympics are to stay fit and make the team!” she said. “If I make it onto the team, firstly I hope to help the team make the team final and do our best in the final. Individually, I would love to make the all around final and maybe an apparatus final.”
Ask any Team GB gymnast, however, and they’ll say the team comes first. With both the men and women’s success at the recent European Championships– both the men taking the team title and the women having many remarkable individual accomplishments– the chances of a historical finish have increased immensely. "Britain as a nation is now a force to be reckoned with in gymnastics,” Whelan said. “As long as we do our routines as best we can, we hope to improve on 2008 [where we finished ninth] and qualify for the team final. And to also see if we can repeat– if not better– our performance from the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.” Although the women are trying to just make it to team finals, the men have a legitimate chance of finishing in the top three. “I don't think there's any doubt that, as a team, both men's and women's, we now have the quality needed across the board to compete with the best countries in the world,” Smith said. “We've shown that at the major championships now, so the opportunity is there to achieve better than we ever have before at the Olympic Games, especially with the huge benefit of our home support. But we need to remember that this is an Olympic Games and everyone ups their game. We have enough talent to achieve great things, but we need to ensure that all of the necessary elements for success, both mentally and physically, come together when it counts.”
So until the Games start in a matter of seven weeks, all the British gymnasts can do is continue working hard. If they can do that, anything is possible. “We've got to keep doing what we do best and what we know we're capable of,” Smith said. “So it's about controlling our emotions, keeping calm and getting the job done that we know we can do.”
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