“In world gymnastic terms, Beth Tweddle is unique,” explains Team GB’s gymnastics performance director Tim Jones. “Female gymnasts are in their prime between 16 and 21, and don’t tend to go on much more than that. So the fact that Beth (aged 27) is here for her third Olympic Games is an almost unprecedented achievement.”
Tweddle is Great Britain’s most successful gymnast yet, with six European and three world titles. What she doesn’t have is an Olympic medal, having narrowly missed out, again, in Beijing. Since May she’s been sleeping with a £3,500 ice machine strapped to her knee after undergoing emergency keyhole surgery. Nevertheless, she’s Britain’s best female medal prospect and her flamboyant routine is guaranteed to dazzle.
The Chinese gymnast He Kexin is the Olympic champion, though, and she’ll offer very strong opposition. She’s probably the strongest gymnast in the world, but she’s grown a lot since the Beijing Games and is very inconsistent at the moment — though if she’s on song, Kexin should win.
A routine must include an aerial manoeuvre from the lower to the higher bar, one in the opposite direction, and one that starts and ends on the same bar. Also at least one handstand turn.