Leeds’ Nile Wilson will tonight bid to help Great Britain continue their upward trajectory in gymnastics by winning an Olympic medal in the team final.
Team GB – who won an historic bronze at London 2012 and a silver at last year’s world championships – qualified fifth for tonight’s team final in Rio.
Wilson, part of a five-man team alongside household names Louis Smith and Max Whitlock, Kristian Thomas and Brinn Bevan, scored 268.670 on the apparatus, with China, United States, Russia and Japan ahead of them.
Twenty-year-old Wilson contributed significantly in the all-around, horizontal bar and rings competitions; qualifying for the individual finals of the first two later this week.
Wilson – who trains at the Leeds Gymnastics Club – scored 89.240 in the all-around qualification, the fifth highest mark of the day.
And he also impressed on the rings with a score of 14.941 and on the horizontal bar with a mark of 15.500, the second best score of the competition which bodes well for his medal chances later in the week.
Wilson showed at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow two years ago that he can produce strong performances across a week of competition, following up his contribution to the gold medal won by England in the team event with a gold in the horizontal bar, a silver in the parallel bars and a bronze in the individual all-round.
And Saturday’s taster in the Rio Olympic Park has left him hungry for more.
“I’m loving every second of it and I’m focussing on enjoying myself,” said Wilson.
“All I was focussing on was my gymnastics and what I can do. I had a couple of little wobbles, but all in all it was very consistent and clean.
“Things do happen in events, things can go wrong, but you just have to keep focussed.
“We’ve trained all our lives for this competition, so I’m not going to let anything get in the way of that.”
The team final – which also includes Brazil, Ukraine and Germany – begins at 8pm UK time tonight and is scheduled to run until midnight.
Whitlock and Smith limbered up for a potential gold medal showdown on the men’s pommel horse by leading Great Britain into the final.
The pair produced an impressive series of performances to guarantee a place in tonight’s final, with Whitlock leading on both pommel and floor with one round of the qualification process still to be completed.
Great Britain are fancied to at least match their team bronze in London 2012 while one of Whitlock or Smith is set to get the chance to claim the nation’s first Olympic gymnastics gold when they go head to head on their favoured apparatus in the individual competition.
Having already made history by being crowned Britain’s first men’s individual world champion last year, Whitlock said: “I’m happy with what I’ve done – the team has pulled together really well and I’m really pleased to have come up first in the floor and pommel.
“This is probably one of the strongest teams we’ve ever had and the 2015 World Championships when we came second to China really proved that.
“We need to use the experience we’ve got and go out there and enjoy it.”
Smith – the most decorated member of Britain’s gymnastics team having won bronze in the team event four years ago, and a bronze and a silver in the pommel horse over the last two Games – scored marginally behind his rival on the pommel with 15.700 against Whitlock’s 15.800, but said he was pleased with his display.
Smith said: “Exuding confidence affects a lot of things – it affects my confidence, the team’s confidence, the judges.
“When you go out to do a warm up before your routine, even that’s important because the judges are looking at you.
“If you smash your warm up they’re going to think that you’re on form.
“We all felt good. We do enough training in the gym where you walk out, and yes you’re nervous, but 90 per cent of the feeling is that you’re going to smash it.”