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Page last updated at 20:51 GMT, Tuesday, 19 October 2010 21:51 UK

World Gymnastics 2010: British men fourth in qualifying

World Gymnastics, 16-24 October: Daily reports and video, live on BBC TV, red button and online from Wednesday Gymnastics on the BBC

Smith pleased with pommel horse routine

By Ollie Williams

Britain's men completed 30 routines without a single major error as they set an impressive qualifying score of 357.033 points at the World Gymnastics.

The result at Rotterdam's Ahoy Arena saw GB ease into Thursday's men's team final in an unprecedented fourth place.

Louis Smith crept into the pommel horse final while Dan Purvis reached the floor and all-around finals.

"The boys did absolutely fantastically today, we couldn't have wished for better routines," Smith told BBC Sport.

Britain's exceptional qualifying performance could not be beaten by Germany, the last major gymnastics power to compete late on Tuesday as two days of qualifying came to an end.

The result also sees Britain pass the first stage of qualification for the 2012 Olympic team event with ease.

Individual qualification for London 2012 has yet to begin, but teams must qualify in the top 24 here to gain entry to next year's World Championships, in Tokyo.

We looked professional, with no mistakes. It was a dream competition

Louis Smith

The top eight teams at that tournament will qualify directly for the 2012 Games.

Britain's women sailed through qualifying on Saturday. They finished in fifth place to book passage to Tokyo 2011 and also reach Wednesday's women's team final here in the Netherlands.

The GB men were expected to face a stiffer test, especially in the absence of world silver medallist Daniel Keatings, who suffered ligament damage after winning the European pommel horse title in Birmingham five months ago.

But the remaining team members - Smith, Purvis, Sam Hunter, Ruslan Panteleymonov, Theo Seager and Kristian Thomas - rose to the challenge in almost immaculate fashion.

Their combined score left them behind only China, who scored 362.482, Japan (361.400) and the United States (357.092).

Germany (355.383) and Russia (355.076), who would both have expected to out-qualify Britain with ease in previous years, finished fifth and sixth respectively.

"It was an amazing performance," said British coach Paul Hall after GB's qualifying session on Monday.

"To go clean without any major mistakes is absolutely brilliant, and it justifies the amount of work the team have done over the past year.

"We knew it was possible, but anything can go wrong in competition and the guys kept their heads together and worked so hard."

Smith, who specialises in the pommel horse, posted a score of 15.300 on the apparatus, which proved just enough to reach Saturday's final as he qualified in eighth place.

Theo Seager
Seager also put in a strong performance on the rings

The 21-year-old won Olympic bronze in the event at the Beijing Games in 2008, but fell from the horse at last year's World Championships, ruining his hopes of gold on home soil in London.

"I'm relieved," admitted Smith. "I felt unbelievable pressure after falling off at the last World Championships.

"I had a point to prove to UK Sport. I felt a lot of pressure to try to get through the routine. I've done it and I'm really happy.

"A lot of other countries were in watching us and we've raised their eyebrows. To make it even better we looked professional, with no mistakes. It was a dream competition."

While Smith stood out on the pommel horse, the British performance was powered by Purvis.

The 19-year-old Liverpudlian racked up a combined score of 89.498 on the six pieces of apparatus to reach Friday's all-around final, while a score of 15.266 on floor saw him qualify for that final in third place.

Nottingham 22-year-old Hunter also put in assured performances across all pieces to finish with a combined score of 89.090, while Birmingham's Thomas scored 87.840, including 14.866 on the high bar.

Hunter qualified in 10th place for the all-around final, with Purvis fifth.

Seager, 20, delivered Britain's top vault performance of the day, scoring an average of 15.949 from his two attempts but missing out on the final.

He and Panteleymonov wrapped up the team's near-faultless performance with assured displays on Britain's final piece of apparatus, the rings.

However, Hall played down any chance of a medal for Britain's men in the team final.

"We're a long-term prospect," he said. "We have to remember we came 15th in Stuttgart in 2007 - to jump from 15th to where we are now is fantastic.

"I just got back from the Commonwealth Games, where five other gymnasts won nine medals on the men's side, and to have six other guys come into this competition shows we've got at least a dozen guys ready to work for London 2012."

The men's team final will take place on Thursday, with all-around finals on Friday and apparatus finals spread across the weekend.

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