Jessica Gadirova inspires Great Britain to world championship silver

Powered by the roars of a home crowd that came to witness excellence, Great Britain’s women produced their best ever team performance at a major gymnastics competition as they clinched a brilliant silver medal at the world championships in Liverpool, navigating their 12 routines with just a single fall.

More than a year on from their historic, surprise bronze medal in the team finals of the Tokyo Olympics, GB continues to mark itself as one of the best gymnastics nations in the world. This new breakthrough is just the second time GB have won a women’s team medal at a world championship.

Despite the absence of the all-time great superstars that have populated many previous victorious USA teams, they still marched to their sixth consecutive world championship gold medal, anchored by the veterans Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey. Meanwhile, Canada pulled off a historic bronze medal with a late surge.

Of the four-member team in Tokyo, only Amelie Morgan, now at university in the US, is absent this year. She has been replaced by Georgia-Mae Fenton along with the addition of 18-year-old Ondine Achampong. The trio of Alice Kinsella, European all-around silver medallist this year, two-time European floor champion Jessica Gadirova and Jennifer Gadirova remain the core of the team.

The qualifying rounds had already underlined how women’s gymnastics has shifted as GB qualified in second place with Brazil in third. With the absence of Olympic gold medallists Russia, banned due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the continued struggles of perennial medalists China, this was an opportunity for numerous improved nations.

By qualifying for the final in second place, GB were drawn alongside the USA team, the top two qualifiers starting on vault. Both teams started well, with Kinsella, Jessica Gadirova and Achampong each throwing down strong double-twisting Yurchenko vaults. At the end of the rotation, the USA led second place GB by .434, Carey’s extremely difficult Cheng vault the difference.

While the top two nations opened smoothly, Italy counted three falls on the uneven bars and China struggled through the beam, offering an opportunity for the other nations. GB did not quite match their own qualifying performance on the uneven bars, particularly with Jessica Gadirova struggling badly with her Ezhova release skill, but they held on. Kinsella finished an excellent routine, scoring 14.1 even as the USA blazed ahead.

As Brazil struggled through the balance beam, with Rebeca Andrade counting a fall, GB headed to the ever-precarious beam with a clear opportunity. Often GB’s downfall in the past, it was always likely to decide where they ended up.

Two strong routines were enough. Achampong opened with a cool, authoritative routine, scoring a huge 13.7. Fenton followed, calmly moving through and scoring 13.333. While Kinsella fell off a back layout and then touched the beam, they headed to the final rotation 2.2 points from the USA with a 1.399 advantage over third-placed Japan.

With three routines separating them from a medal, Jennifer Gadirova opened with a strong routine and a score of 13.433. Kinsella, who had fallen in the prelims, removed the offending skill and powered through. It came down to Jessica Gadirova, who has established herself as one of the best and most consistent floor workers in the world. As usual, she did not miss.