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Friday 23 October 2015

Great Britain’s top female gymnasts will take their first steps towards Rio 2016 today as Women’s Team qualification gets underway at the 2015 World Gymnastics Championship in Glasgow.

The UK’s leading lights, including sister double-act, Becky and Ellie Downie, and 2014 Commonwealth Games star, Claudia Fragapane, will take to the Floor, Uneven Bars, Beam and Vault with a place at next year’s Olympic Games on offer.

The top eight competing nations over the first four days of qualification in both men’s and women’s contests will enter the all-important Team Finals at The SSE Hydro on October 27 and 28. However, for each of the 87 nations assembled in Glasgow, much more than gold, silver or bronze is at stake; those eight teams will also secure passage to Rio.

The top 24 athletes will also advance to All-Around Final and the top eight on each piece of apparatus to the Apparatus Finals of the ‘Worlds’ following the conclusion of the critical preliminary stage, including current All-Around World Champions Kohei Uchimura of Japan and America’s Simone Biles.

Britain’s women’s team, which also includes World University Champions Kelly Simm, Commonwealth Games medallist Ruby Harrold and British Champion Amy Tinkler, will look to emulate their 2014 World Championships performance, which saw them through to the Finals in Nanning.

Following her opening SSE Hydro outing of the Championships for podium training, elder sister, Becky Downie, spoke of the added responsibility as one of the most experience member of the team in Glasgow. She said: “It’s new for me to be the team leader and I’m doing the best I can. I try to tell the others that a mistake is not the end of the world.

“I had a couple of mistakes during podium training but that is good because we have time to correct the mistakes, and they were mostly missed connections on beam. The other girls did a great job on the floor exercise especially.”

Becky, the European bars and beam silver medalist, added: “My individual goals are to have steady routines, and hopefully get into the bars final, and maybe also the beam final.”

The mantra of practice makes perfect was echoed by Claudia Fragapane, who returns to Glasgow with fond memories as the outstanding performer of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where she won four gold medals, including the All-Around title.

“I had a couple of mistakes today,” commented Fragapane, who will enjoy birthday celebrations on Saturday. “The pressure got to me a little. But I’m turning 18 during the Championships and a great present would be to qualify as a team in the top eight.”

Stiff competition awaits, with medal favourites and long-time rivals Romania and Russia also taking to the apparatus on the opening day. Russia earned four medals, including bronze in the Team Final, at the 2014 Worlds in Nanning. Larisa Iordache (ROU) won both of Romania’s medals in Nanning, including silver in the All-Around.

Meanwhile, Biles’ USA and China, who took gold and silver in Nanning, respectively, will open their campaigns on the second day of qualifying.

Also aiming for solid starts on Friday are 2014 Team finalists Italy and Japan. Individual gymnasts to watch for include 40-year-old Oksana Chusovitina (UZB), who is looking to secure an incredible seventh Olympic Games, and four-time Olympian Daniele Hypolito (BRA).

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