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Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Saturday, 17 October 2009 15:16 UK

Smith error ruins Worlds chance

Venue: O2 Arena, London Dates: 13-18 October Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, the red button and BBC Sport website (UK only)

Louis Smith

Highlights - Smith's mistake blows medal hopes

By Ollie Williams
BBC Sport at the O2 Arena, London

Louis Smith came off the pommel horse early in his routine to miss out on a medal at the World Championships.

Smith, hoping to improve on Olympic bronze, appeared in two minds about his next move and lost vital momentum.

The Peterborough 20-year-old, first to compete, recovered to show glimpses of his potential but came eighth and last, China's Zhang Hongtao taking gold.

"We decided to go for the harder routine, even though we're three years away from 2012," he told BBC Sport.

"It didn't go to plan today but with a bit of luck we can get it sorted."

GB gymnasts have one more medal chance when Beth Tweddle, the European champion in the floor event, competes on Sunday.

I'm not saying it's a good thing I fell off but it puts reality back in that anything can happen

Louis Smith

But Smith's failure to win a medal, in front of his home crowd for the first time at an event of this magnitude, will disappoint British Gymnastics.

He had been hailed as a medal prospect and potential star of London 2012 ever since earning bronze in Beijing last year, and delivered a near-flawless routine in qualification.

Going first in the competition and with one chance to impress the judges, Smith had a tough decision to make.

He could have chosen a comparatively easy routine, hoping for plenty of execution points to carry him to a medal.

In the event, he chose to take on extra difficulty but seemed unsure of the direction his routine was taking, lost his shape and rhythm, and came off the horse.

Smith determined to learn from fall

He returned to complete the rest of his routine cleanly, but knew he had squandered any chance of making the medal rostrum.

"You can't get it right all the time. I'm going to go back to the gym, keep training hard and hopefully I can get it right next year," he added.

"A fall now and again sets you back on your feet. After Beijing and doing so well at the Europeans you almost feel invincible.

"I'm not saying it's a good thing I fell off but it puts reality back in that anything can happen and you need to keep working hard."

Zhang, 23, showed superb control to win gold with ease, producing a masterclass, having already stunned judges in qualifying.

Smith had admitted being "a little bit" daunted by Zhang earlier in the week, and Saturday's triumphant display earned the latter an impressive, deserved score of 16.200.

It was good experience and we've got a date with this horse in a few years' time to do a better job

Paul Hall - Smith's coach

Hungarian Krisztian Berki, 24, has been one of Smith's main rivals over the last two years, winning European gold in front of Smith earlier this year, and World silver ahead of Smith in 2007.

He equalled that at the O2 Arena with a performance that mixed style and elegance with pace and balance.

Australian 23-year-old Prashanth Sellathurai took bronze but his score of 15.400 was comfortably behind the top two, Berki having registered 16.075.

Smith brought up the rear with a score of 14.450.

Paul Hall, Smith's coach, said: "Louis is very upset but after a few minutes of sadness he's now looking forward and trying to understand his mistake, so he can focus on the next competition.

"It was important to do a difficult start score, he was going for a 6.9 - quite difficult. He was worried about the first three elements, was unsettled in the second one, and that was that.

"Going up first was quite difficult. It was good experience and we've got a date with this horse in a few years' time to do a better job."

There is no team event at this year's World Championships, the first to be held on British soil since they were hosted by Birmingham in 1993.

But individual performances have already injected British Gymnastics with plenty of optimism for London 2012.

Corby 19-year-old Daniel Keatings won an unprecedented silver medal in the men's all-around final on Thursday, with Wolverhampton's Kristian Thomas finishing sixth.

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see also
World Gymnastics - Saturday finals
17 Oct 09 |  Gymnastics
Keatings may pass on 2010 Games
16 Oct 09 |  Gymnastics
Sloan beats Bross to World gold
16 Oct 09 |  Gymnastics
Keatings secures historic silver
15 Oct 09 |  Gymnastics
Shock fall for Tweddle at Worlds
14 Oct 09 |  Gymnastics
Impressive Smith through to final
13 Oct 09 |  Gymnastics
World Gymnastics gets under way
13 Oct 09 |  Gymnastics
Gymnastics on the BBC
05 Oct 11 |  Gymnastics
Get involved in gymnastics
23 Sep 10 |  Gymnastics
Gymnastics results
23 Aug 05 |  Gymnastics

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