Three inexperienced teenagers and a 20-year-old rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion to claim Great Britain’s first women’s team gymnastics medal since 1928.
In a remarkable vindication of their governing body’s controversial selection policy, Alice Kinsella, Amelie Morgan and 16-year-old twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova snatched bronze behind the team representing the Russian Olympic Committee and the United States.
A nerveless all-round display by the British quartet saw them realistically targeting an historic-enough fifth place finish heading into the final of the four rotations, which would have been enough to match the team’s performance in Rio five years ago.
But Italy’s failure to summon the scores they required on beam in their final piece of apparatus saw the British team move into the medal positions on the stadium scoreboard, to the general astonishment of the star-struck team on the Ariake Stadium floor.
“I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing,” admitted the 18-year-old Morgan, who rallied from an early fall on the beam – the only setback of the quartet’s final routine – to help lift her team back into improbable bronze medal contention.
“I had to pinch myself to check that it was real, we were absolutely speechless, I didn’t know what to think, I was over the moon.”
The Gadirova twins might be the newest additions to the elite Great Britain squad but they have already proved themselves with Jessica marking her major senior debut with three medals – including floor gold – at this year’s European Championship in Basel.
Nevertheless a medal in Tokyo was considered well beyond them, with British Gymnastics’ stated intention of looking to the future coming in for some serious criticism in the wake of the controversial omission of world bars medallist Becky Downie from the final line-up.
“I cannot believe this, it 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. We were looking at the scores and we were like, OK, this is quite good. We were over the moon to beat our score from qualifying. To come third is absolutely amazing.”
The British success was underpinned by a stellar performance from Kinsella, at 22 thrust into the role of the most experienced member of the team, having won an unexpected gold medal on beam in the European Championships in 2019.
Kinsella put a tough individual qualifying session on Sunday behind her, and it was her consistency, culminating in a crucial personal best score of 14.166 on the uneven bars, that allied with the Italians’ last-minute failure and moved her team onto the podium.
“Obviously after vault I looked up and thought ok we could potentially get a medal,” said Kinsella. “So I thought I’m going to go and do the best bar routine I could ever do, which I did.
“When we saw we’d come third we were speechless – I was on the floor, crying and everything. Our main aim was just to go out there and do better than qualification. We’ve proved to (our critics) that we’re able to do it, and we’ve come away with a bronze.”
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