SEVERAL local girls represented Great Britain at the tenth European TeamGym finals in Reykjavik, Iceland.
In the Great Britain junior women’s squad were Anna Richardson and Holly Waters (Chi High School for Girls), Amy and Sophie Brown (Bishop Luffa).
Representing the senior women was Funtingdon’s Fenella Mousley and Chichester University students Rochelle Oxley and Hema Gaur-Sharma.
The sport of TeamGym in Scandinavia is the biggest form of gymnastics, being the number-one practised sport for the female population and third among the males.
Competitions were beamed live on prime-time Scandinavian national television, while up to 5,000 spectators packed the arena.
As a non-Olympic sport, funding is very limited with the girls having to pay their own way. Through bag-packing in supermarkets and a generous contribution from Bognor based K&M Scaffolding, the girls were at least able to soften the blow.
The first job for both GB teams was to face the dreaded qualification rounds, where only six teams would make it through. For the junior women this was their first full international call.
The draw had been unkind to the girls as they were last to compete. After a solid trampette and vault, the girls were eighth ahead of the German national team.
In the second rotation of apparatus, the Italian team had a number of falls while the British girls produced the fourth-best floor routine of the competition to move up to seventh.
In the final rotation only 0.4 of a mark separated the teams as the Czech Republic and GB went head to head on the tumble. The girls knew they had to put in the performance of their lives and their highly-risky tumble routine, which included a last run of six double-somersault back tumbles.
Going clean on their first two runs, the squad and GB supporters held their breath as two stumbles and a hands-down meant the judging panel’s result was going to be close. As the finals scores were announced, a jubilant GB team celebrated getting through to their first European final.
The next night saw the senior women in action. The pressure was on as both the junior women and mixed senior teams had already qualified for the final. The experienced trio of Mousley, Oxley and Gaur-Sharma had a point to prove after not qualifying in 2012.
First up was the floor display, and despite what looked a solid performance the judges were unimpressed and an uncharacteristically-low score heaped more pressure on the girls. A sound display on the tumble put GB back in contention.
It became a fight between Italy, Russia and GB. The experience and complexity of the girls from Portsmouth School of Gymnastics told with a good trampette display, and with the Russians and Italians making mistakes on their last piece of apparatus the GB team made the finals.
The two nights of finals were amazing for the GB teams. The electric atmosphere created by the Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish supporters was something to behold.
All three GB teams raised their games significantly to produce the performances of their lives. Competing against the might of Scandinavia is very tough.
The junior girls were magnificent, finishing 1.2 marks behind the team from Finland in sixth place, but producing a display that gained two more marks than the qualification rounds.
The senior girls pushed the Scandinavians all the way and although they also finished sixth, they were only 0.4 of a mark off fourth – and scored four more marks than in qualification.
For the first time the UEG decided to name a European all-star team from this championship. Each of the 420-plus gymnasts was scored for their floor, tumble, trampette and vault displays with the 11 highest scorers being added to the all-star team.
After her amazing performances, University of Chichester student Hema Gaur-Sharma was added to the team as the fourth-best performing female at the championships.
This was a huge honour for the GB starlet and for PSG and the incredible coaching work conducted by head coaches Bev and Julian Such.
The future for the club looks bright as the gymnasts look forward to the next European cycle in the run-up to Finland 2016.