Luke Folwell won a brilliant, and hugely unepxected, Commonwealth gold in the men’s individual all-around competition in Delhi this afternoon, while 18-year-old Reiss Beckford snatched a super silver as England overwhelmed the podium places.
Indeed, it was so nearly a clean sweep for the unfancied English as Max Whitlock finished fourth just three-tenths behind Joshua Jefferis who took the bronze for Australia.
England officials harboured hopes that maybe one of their young and inexperienced squad would make the podium in this event with all the predictors suggesting Australians would dominate. After all, they won the team competition two days ago ahead of England and had brought their number one gymnasts to India en route to the world championships.
But Folwell and his men had other ideas and produced the performances of their young lives to take the glory.
“It’s a dream, it’s amazing. I just can’t put it into words,” said the startled Folwell. “I know a lot of people say that when they’ve won, but it’s truly how I’m feeling.”
The 23-year-old Cambridgeshire man just missed a vault medal four years ago in Melbourne but has never before won a title at this level. A gymnast since he was four, Folwell had qualified for the final in third place, and afterwards he just couldn’t believe all the hard work had paid off.
“I’m so happy I was able to put it all into practice and nail some clean routines,” he said. “I’m proud of the team and how we all got through it.”
Folwell amassed 85.550 points from the six pieces of apparatus, 100 more than Beckford, the youngster from Enfield who snatched silver with a superb final routine, scoring 14.3 on the horizontal bar.
The lead changed hands a number of times in the rearly rounds, but Folwell establised himsef at the head of the pack with the last two exercises to go. But the gold was far from assured as he took to the horizontal bar, especially as his young team-mate had performed so well.
But he held his nerve and nailed it to perfection. The secret? He simply shut out the crowd and the expectations and imagined he was back at his home gym.
“I just pictured myself at Huntingdon Olympic Gym Club with no-one watching,” he said. “Then all I had to do was perform my training routine and present to my coach. And it worked.”
Beckford, watched by his mother and father, also gymnasts, plus an aunt and uncle, plus “loads back home on the telly”, was equally elated with his surprise silver, a remarkable achievement given that he was suffering from a touch of ‘Delhi belly’.
“Its amazing,” he said. “I never expected it. I didn’t feel so good this morning but I got through it and I’m over the moon.
“It was very close for gold but it’s gone to my team-mate. Luke is a friend and I’m delighted for him. It’s a great day for English gymnastics. We came to do a job and we’ve done ourselves proud.”
“It’s my first Commonwealth Games and hopefully not my last because it’s an amazing experience. It feels so much to have my family’s support.”
The unlucky Whitlock also joined in the team celebrations. “Obviously, I’m disappointed ot have missed a medal but the team performed really well and I’m happy with my performance on the day.
“The main thing is the team and I’m proud for England.”
Team manager Mike Weinstock was just as stunned as his gymnasts. “It was an absolutely amazing performance. Totally unexpected,” he said.