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Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Saturday, 24 April 2010 17:07 UK

Great Britain men win first European team medal

Great Britain's Kristian Thomas

Highlights - GB gymnasts win historic silver

By Ollie Williams
BBC Sport at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Great Britain's male gymnasts won their first ever European Championships team medal, placing second behind Germany at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena.

World silver medallist Daniel Keatings fell on two sets of apparatus, the pommel horse and parallel bars.

But the team, which also included Louis Smith, Sam Hunter, Kristian Thomas and Daniel Purvis, still forced France into third and saw off Spain.

Britain's men had never even made the team final at European level before.

But their score of 263.025 put them ahead of France's 260.100 and Spain's 258.800, behind a sublime German total of 266.150.

They were doing everything to make me forget my mistakes - they were awesome today

Daniel Keatings

"This is amazing, it's the first time the British men have done it in our history," said Keatings.

"We thought maybe we could make top five - coming out with a silver medal is awesome.

"I did have a few errors but it wasn't about me today, it was about the whole team."

Top teams such as Belarus, Ukraine and Russia failed to reach the competition following travel problems caused by a volcanic ash cloud over Europe.

But the home team's 263-point total would have remained an imposing total for those nations to beat.

In the junior tournament earlier on Saturday, Great Britain - buoyed by their team gold medal on Thursday - found more success in the individual all-around final.

Sam Oldham won the individual gold with a score of 84.575, fractionally ahead of fellow 17-year-old Max Whitlock, whose 84.275 earned him silver.

Sam Oldham

Junior GB gymnasts win gold and silver

The team event is the focus of these European Championships, and is a valuable guide to form ahead of the London Olympics in 2012 as national teams begin to take shape.

The men's European Championships conclude on Sunday with the individual apparatus finals, where Smith and Keatings will compete in the pommel horse having qualified in first and second place respectively.

Purvis goes in the parallel bars final and is joined by Thomas in the floor final.

The senior tournament then resumes with women's qualifying on Thursday, which stars Britain's Beth Tweddle, followed by their team final on Saturday, 1 May and individual finals the following day.

On the evidence of Saturday, Britain's men are entering into unprecedented territory at just the right time, particularly after victory for the GB youngsters in the event's junior equivalent on Thursday.

Britain's men celebrate
Britain's men have never even made a European final before

Simply reaching the 2012 Olympic final, in which the top eight teams in the world compete, would be an achievement by the recent standard of British male gymnastics.

At the Europeans, the team competition sees each nation put forward a squad of five gymnasts. Three are chosen to take part in each event, which allows countries to enter one-event specialists alongside versatile all-around competitors.

But all three scores are counted and none can be dropped, so strength in depth is the key quality.

Britain started well as Purvis, third in the floor event in qualifying, repeated the trick to rack up a score of 14.950.

Thomas and Hunter were similarly assured but there was disaster for Keatings on the pommel in the next event.

He over-cooked his handstand a little at the start and, in trying to recover, sacrificed crucial momentum, dropping off the horse for a disappointing score of 13.700.

Louis Smith, winner of Olympic bronze on the pommel at Beijing 2008, tried to salvage something with an impressive performance worth 15.525, but even that score was lower than that his routine in qualifying received.

GB gymnasts delighted with medal

Germany, led by Fabian Hambuechen, were impressive from the start on vault and parallel bars, to the point where they were well ahead by the final's halfway mark.

That left the contest for silver between Britain and France, and the home nation conquered their demons on the rings - traditionally a struggle for British gymnasts - while the French imploded on the parallel bars.

Cyril Tommasone fell from the apparatus while Hamilton Sabot dropped a leg onto the bars mid-routine.

Keatings brushed off his pommel disappointment to record a solid 15.600 in the vault.

Purvis, like Keatings, was just slightly off in his landing for a score of 15.575, while Hunter held his nerve to outdo his team-mates with an accomplished 15.700.

As the French team's travails continued on high bar, Britain needed only to deliver clean, confident performances on the final two sets of apparatus to wrap up silver.

Purvis and Hunter came through the parallel bars cleanly, but Keatings slipped off the bars very early in his routine.

To come away with silver is making history, it's a fantastic achievement

Birmingham's Kristian Thomas

He crouched dejectedly on his haunches as his score of 13.400 was confirmed, but dug deep to regain his composure and produce a spirited 14.125 on the high bar.

Hunter (14.575) and Thomas (14.200) finished in similarly cool fashion on Britain's final piece of apparatus, leaving their opponents powerless to overhaul them.

"The guys were putting in performances for me so I had to lift myself and put in that high bar performance for them," added Keatings, 21.

"They were doing everything to make me forget my mistakes - they were awesome today."

France eventually found some form on the pommel horse to squeeze past Spain into bronze-medal position in Saturday's final moments.

Birmingham gymnast Thomas, competing in his home city, said: "To come away with silver is making history, it's a fantastic achievement.

"We were fairly nervous going into high bar, because we knew what could happen.

"Dan Keatings did a fantastic jump before me and made my job a lot easier going up last. I managed to bring it home."

Smith, who could do nothing but watch after his one routine of the day on the pommel, said: "The guys did fantastically well.

"They kept their nerve and did the business - a few errors but nothing major."

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