Golden boy Smith helps secure Olympic spot for men's gymnastics team in London
Louis Smith waltzed on, dazzled, waltzed off. It was no more than a scintillating minute of heart-in-your mouth gymnastics but you knew at that moment the British men’s team would qualify for the London Olympics.
Smith, the showman we are proud to call one of Sportsmail’s Magnificent Seven, only competes on the pommel horse and leaves the other five disciplines to his all-rounder team-mates. But, my goodness, is he the star.
Star man: Britain's Louis Smith competes on the Pommel Horse during the Olympic qualifying event in London
Not for him a cautious, risk-free routine here at the O2 Arena, which this summer will host the real thing. He almost wobbled off, his legs splitting, the crowd sighing. But he composed himself and celebrated with a fist-pumping joy that raised the biggest cheer of the night.
All eyes turned to the scoreboard. He has scored in the 15s – the mark of success – and the overall standings flashed up to declare Great Britain the new leaders. They never let the advantage slip.
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The team needed to finish fourth out of the eight nations on show to qualify for London 2012 at this test event, having fluffed their chance to do so last October at the World Championships in Tokyo.
It is said that nerves afflicted them then. But the virtually slip-free display started with Daniel Keatings clean routine on the high bar – the 9ft high test of character – and the tone was set.
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They were fifth at the end of that first rotation, up to fourth after the floor and straight to first after Smith’s cameo, ably helped by fellow 15-scorers, Keatings and Max Whitlock. It was a true team effort with Kristian Thomas, Daniel Purvis and Ruslan Panteleymonov playing their controlled part in the success.
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The relief was tangible after a strict Christmas training regime. Nobody in British Gymnastics could countenance failure after all Lottery money that has flowed their way. No disrespect to Puerto Rico, one of yesterday’s competitors, but surely we should be beating them.
The women’s team had already qualified. The men can now look them in the eye. Louis Smith and Co take a bow.