Saturday, 4 August 2012

So Close Saturday

Mind over matter

It has been a long time since 2008 when Hannah Whelan was the baby of the team in Beijing. She has been a regular member of the team for the last four years and has brought some great achievements to British gymnastics. Hannah has been a core member of the British team since the last Olympic Games and has gone from strength to strength. She has been a regular in the all around competitions in both European and World Championships and finished a fantastic 9th place all around at the 2011 World Championships. At the 2012 European Championships she qualified to the beam and floor finals where she managed to take the Bronze on both apparatus. So what would the 2012 Olympic Games hold for Hannah?

Qualification
Great Britain started on beam and Hannah was third up for the team. With the qualifications being for a place in the team final as well as the all around there was a lot at stake. She made a good start but unfortunately came off the beam on her difficult combination of free cartwheel to layout. She got straight back on and finished her routine with very few mistakes and a good if somewhat low dismount. Although this was not a major problem for the team with four gymnasts up on each piece and the top three results counting, how would this affect her chances in the all around? Hannah definitely has the difficulty, but having a mistake on the first apparatus puts a great deal of pressure on for the remainder of the competition. Next was floor, where Hannah was again up third for the team. She gave a fantastic performance, full of energy and with great tumbling. There was no chance of Hannah giving in to pressure! Next was vault and a big moment for Hannah. She had been training a double twisting Yurchenko, an upgrade from the 1.5 twists she usually performs. More pressure again to compete this new vault at such an important time, but she performed it brilliantly, just slightly off line and with one hop forwards. She was clearly delighted to have competed her new vault so well. The last piece was bars, not known as being one of Hannah's strongest pieces, but she gave a good performance to round out her competition. At the end of the day not only did GB make the team final but Hannah held off the pressure to make it to the all around final with the 17th highest score of the day.

Team Final
Britain were again starting on beam for the team final. With the '3-up-3-count' rule in place for the final there really would be no room for error. Hannah was the last one up for the team on beam and having just seen a fall from team mate Jenni Pinches she will have known that she had to give a good performance. She managed to put the memories of qualifying behind her with a really steady routine, but had a few steps back on the dismount. It was a good steady start for Hannah and beam was over with! Floor was next where Hannah gave yet another expressive and vibrant routine and some excellent tumbling. Only performing on three of the four apparatus in the team final there was then a wait for Hannah before bars where she was up first for the team. She gave a good performance and helped the team to a historic 6th place finish.

All Around
Hannah was part of the third highest qualifying group meaning she would once again be starting her competition on beam. She was the very first gymnast to compete on beam and gave a very steady routine, with only a couple of wobbles and a much better dismount than we had seen previously. A great start. Then on to floor and yet another expressive and thoroughly enjoyable routine with fantastic tumbling and a nailed double pike to finish. Vault was next and yet again Hannah was going to perform her new vault, they DTY. Unfortunately for Hannah it was this piece where things went wrong. After giving such a great performance in the team final it was not to be this time. She fell on landing and the judges made the decision that her feet did not land on the mat first and therefore scored her a 0.000. It must have been absolutely devastating to see that score and know that there was no way back. The tears were evident and everybody seemed in shock at the score. With one more piece to go it would have been easy to give up but that is something that Hannah refused to do. She went on and gave a fantastic bars routine to an amazingly encouraging and supportive audience. She competed that last piece under circumstances which required the utmost courage and determination and she showed the crowd and the whole of the gymnastics world exactly what she was made of. It was by no means the result that Hannah would have wanted but she made a whole nation proud.

The 24th place finish for Hannah is by no means a reflection of this fantastic gymnast. Unfortunately the all around competition was the last we will see of Hannah this Olympics as she did not qualify to any of the event finals, but she has a lot more to give and I am sure that we will be seeing her compete for many years to come.

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