rio olympics

Rio backbone: Britain’s Ellie Downie recovers from ‘scary’ gymnastics fall as wobbly China go top

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 5:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 5:30am

Britain’s Ellie Downie proved herself “a fighter” on Sunday when she carried on after a horrific crash landing on her neck, while China’s pursuit of the women’s team title got off to a shaky start in qualifying.

There was an audible gasp in the arena when Downie’s tumbling run on the floor exercise ended with her clutching her head after she suffered what she called “a crunch in my neck”.

Despite being helped out of the arena to get medical attention, the 17-year-old was back in action just 15 minutes later as she executed two soaring vaults to provisionally leave Britain third in qualifying.

“It was very scary and a shock to the system. Ellie’s a fighter for coming back,” summed up elder sister Becky, who earned the team’s highest score of 15.233 on the asymmetric bars.

China currently sit top in qualifying with a total of 175.279 points but they are likely to slide down the rankings once American Simone Biles leads the world and Olympic champions out in the fourth group of competitors.

Such was China’s performance that unless they iron out the wobbles and flaws that marred Sunday’s routines, they could be left off the team podium for the second Games running. Russia, the 2012 silver medallists, stood second with a total of 174.620.

Uzbek Oksana Chusovitina, a member of the 1992 gold medal Unified Team and at 41 the oldest ever gymnast to compete at an Olympics, will face a long wait to discover if her average vault score of 14.999 is good enough to make the eight-woman final.

Nerves appeared to get the better of 16-year-old Olympic debutantes Wang Yan and Mao Yi of China.

Wang was lucky not to fall off the balance beam as she almost lost her footing after a back somersault and her score of 14.100 was China’s lowest on the apparatus.

Mao fared no better with her floor exercise. She landed out of bounds into the dark green area following her first tumbling run, put a hand down and then rolled on to her knee after the second tumbling combination and botched her landing on the third. A score of 11.700 reflected her flop show.

Shang Chunsong’s vault also went awry, drawing 12.766.

“Everyone is a little bit nervous because we want to compete in the finals. We can do better,” admitted Shang, who feared she might not make it to Rio after being laid low with fever.

“We just need to enjoy the process. If you enjoy what you do, then the results will be good.”

Although none of Sunday’s scores will be carried through to the team final, there will be no room for error on Tuesday.

In qualifying, four competitors from each country compete on each apparatus with only the top three scores counting towards the total. In the final, each nation will put forward three athletes and all three scores will count.