9 August 2012

British Gymnastics Doing Rhythmic No Favours

In the midst of a very successful Olympic Games for host nation Great Britain and Northern Ireland has been some riveting performances by their gymnasts. The acclaimed bronze medal for the men's team was a highlight and two bronze medals and a silver medal followed in the individual apparatus finals. Now it is the turn for the host nation's rhythmic gymnasts, an event which has traditionally received little support or coverage in Britain.

The media did get involved when controversy surrounded the GB rhythmic group's efforts to qualify for the Games. In the London test event a knot in a ribbon prevented the team from making the qualifying score set to them by British Gymnastics. The target score was 45.223 over their two routines but they came up just 0.273 short as BG confirmed that they would not take part in the Games. The group won an appeal at an independent hearing in London as it was decided that the criteria was not made clear to them. 

All of this controversy was not even needed as Britain already had a place at London 2012 courtesy of being the host nation. However British Gymnastics decided to impose a qualifying mark on the group to ensure that they were up to Olympic standard anyway. The Olympic motto that it is 'taking part that counts' was almost blown out of the window as GB originally failed to meet their own governing body's requirement. That their appeal won through was something of a victory and BG had to re-track their original decision and said that it 'will now nominate a rhythmic group.'

Despite winning their appeal the group must have still felt let down that British Gymnastics felt the need to make them prove themselves when they were trying to become the first ever British group to compete in an Olympics.They are self-funded as UK Sport cut their funding with all training now paid for by the gymnasts and their parents. All six members of the group are former individual athletes who joined together in an attempt to reach London. Three members of the squad, Rachel Smith, Lynne Hutchinson and Francesca Fox, are former British champions while Jade Faulkner has taken British individual apparatus titles. Georgina Cassar will make her own piece of history as she becomes the first Gibraltan gymnast to represent Team GB.

Great Britain has also sent an individual representative in Welsh competitor Francesca Jones. She has a solid record that includes a Commonwealth Games silver medal with her hoop routine in Delhi two years ago. She  is the current Welsh and British champion and could do well in the Wembley Arena this week. Jones used to be in full-time training at Lilleshall sports centre but had her funding cut as British Gymnastics stopped national rhythmic gymnastics training. The rhythmic training area at Lilleshall was given to the men's artistic team and all national training funded by BG was stopped as GB coach Bulgarian Nadya Alexandrova was made redundant. Now the only national training is run by the English, Welsh and Scottish boards.

Despite maybe being seen by many as loose wheels the British rhythmic gymnasts are on a mission to ensure that that is not the case. Group member Faulkner said that: "We need to show everyone we deserve our place, that we didn't get the place just through winning through court. [We want] to show that we can do two days of competition consistently." No British rhythmic gymnasts were present at the ground-breaking opening ceremony and a British Gymnastics spokesman explained: "The group will be completing their pre-Games preparation at Bath University and not moving into the village/London until after the opening -as they do not begin competition until the final week of the Games."

However British number one Jones was also absent from the ceremony amidst speculation that BG did not pay enough money for her to attend. When asked about the truth behind these rumours the governing body failed to respond. There has often been controversy surrounding rhythmic gymnastics in Britain but it usually goes unnoticed as the sport is almost always under the radar. In this year's British Championships in the junior competition the spectators were left in the dark as Megan Balabey's score was changed overnight as a result of an appeal but the alteration was not made public. When West Lothian's Lauren Brash realised that she had been moved from silver to bronze position she was reduced to tears.

There have also been rumours circulating that the British 2011 under 12 champion Balabey was actually a year too old when she won her title. When asked if this is true and whether they tried to cover this up when they found out, British Gymnastics once again did not respond. In a sport that is usually just family-orientated in this country; supporters and coaches often seem to be left unsure of goings on.

While the artistic gymnasts have had excellent success in the North Greenwich Arena the rhythmic girls will be hoping to prove their critics wrong in the Wembley Arena. Despite having minimal funding and support from the powers that be, credit has to be given to the British gymnasts who have fought their way to London in the face of adversity. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the detailed info!!
    Google is featuring “Rhythmic Gymnastics” by showing the Doodle “London 2012 rhythmic gymnastics“.