Home sweet home for Britain's men
LONDON (Reuters) - Nothing beats competing at home, Britain's male gymnastics discovered on Saturday when they came through team qualifying ahead of defending champions and pre-Games favourites China.
Never mind that there were banks of empty seats in the expensive rows close to the competition floor, the fans in the upper tiers cheered the British team to the rafters at the North Greenwich Arena.
"I don't think I'll ever be able to replicate the experience of when we first walked out into the arena and the lights were off and the crowd were cheering us," said Kristian Thomas, who led the all-around standings after the first of the day's three qualifying sessions.
"When the crowd are behind you it makes a massive difference and it can spur you on that bit extra," Thomas told Reuters.
"For me I'm just very grateful that I had family out here today, not just my family but the whole of GB, the audience that was in here supporting us."
Louis Smith, who got the morning's highest pommel horse score of 15.800 on the apparatus that gave him a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, agreed that there was no place like home.
"It was magical, it really was," he told reporters. "When they announced us...for the first time the crowd erupted straight away and it blew your socks off a bit.
"It was such a warm feeling and they really got behind every performance. It does add nerves and pressure but I think it sharpens us up and keeps us on our toes."
Being at home had even given the 23-year-old Smith a chance to organise the perfect hairdo for the competition, popping home to Peterborough, a 40-minute train ride away, to see his regular barber and get the sides of his head shaved to the skin.
"I like to change it each time," he said. "I like to do something drastic but maintain looking professional. I don't want to look like a plonker."
(Editing by Mark Meadows)
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