Saturday, October 23, 2010


I didn't see He Kexin fall.  I was taking a picture of Beth Tweddle, who, I have to say, I had every finger, toe and available limb crossed for.

But I heard it. We all did.  And after she left the podium I was so close I could hear the quiet, distressing sobbing of He Kexin as she stood there waiting for a score she didn't want to see.  Her shoulder were heaving and  the tears running down her face before she even left the podium.

Every time I looked back at her afterward her face would be the same.  Still, silent, with a streaming tear on each cheek.  Sad.  This Worlds was all about that one routine for this specialist.

I did see Huang Qiushuang fall, but I couldn't tell you why. And I saw the look of shock and horror of Yang Yilin, who had just finished chalking up for her team mate.  I saw her exchange looks with the coach, in utter disbelief.  She, who had spent the afternoon before talking He through her routine, moving with her, pushing through the swings in a crazed, funny dance beside the chalk bowl.  I looked over to Beth, but she wasn't looking.

One of the nicest gifts I have had this Worlds is the cheeky pleasure of standing behind Beth Tweddle and Amanda Kirby as they watched the rest of the final unfold.  The fun of listening to them chat lies in the way they are just so very mundane and real in these major sporting moments.  It was more like listening to an old married couple watch television than watching a World Championship event final.
They have done this before.  So many times.

The Russian coach came over to shake hands with both Beth and Amanda, and as he walked away, Kirby says,

"Oh, I do like him. He's a lovely fella isn't he?"
"Yeah."  Beth replies.  "They've been real friendly this time."

"Did ya see it?" Amanda asks.
Beth confessed that she hadn't been watching the Chinese girls,

"No I didn't.  But I heard the 'ooh' and the thump and I knew it had happened again."

They watched bars as if they were simply part of the audience, openly admiring Ana Porgras's pretty swing.

"Got nice legsin her handstands, hasn't she?"

Remarking on Mustafina hitting her connection.

"Yeah, she always does that.  See she just missed it the other day, that's all."
"Ooh, did she?"

Expressing genuine regret for poor little Elisabeth Seitz as she fell a second time.

"Oh, poor little thing."

And when Seitz went to clambered back onto the bars for a third time, Amanda Kirby turned on her inner instinctual coach, caring and concerned and called "Come on, girl" quietly, to nobody.

And when she  landed her dismount, they clapped as hard and long as anyone.

Commenting on a mistake in Bross's routine without pleasure or spite.

"Hit the bar."
"Ooh, really?"
"Yep, right on the high bar there."

Any minute you expect one of them to say,"Shall I put the kettle on then?"

I love Tweddle and Kirby.  There is an earthy charm to the both of them.  They are so very, very real.

And what was sweeter than the clamouring of her team mates, especially Hannah and Jenni who train with her to get near Beth after the final in the press room?

I asked them how they felt when the Chinese girls fell and Jenni, in her usual childlike honesty was like, "I was soooo excited.  I couldn't believe it. I knew Beth could win!!"  Imogen Cairns, who was on the floor with her said "I was just like 'Oooooh my Goooooood!' as she rolled her eyes dramatically heavenward.   And when Beth mentioned them in her interview, Hannah Whelan skipped with delight and said, "Ooh, we even get a mention!!!"

As they waited and watched, Cairns remarked to the girls, "Imagine of she wins a gold in London 2012."

Well, she would be so famous that she'd never be able to leave the house again, that's for sure.

Even nicer?  The fact that Amanda Kirby apparently wept through the whole medal ceremony.

I sincerely admire the Chinese girls bar work.  They are beautiful.  But I've said it, and I will say it again, Tweddle's routine is somehow more spectacular, and bars needs spectacular.  She is also an inspiration on so many levels.  For showing age isn't everything in this sport.  For being a great team leader.  For handling the trials and temptations of being a celebrity in her home country.  For being a gymnast who gives her time to younger gymnasts and fans.  For being so darn no nonsense and having a good sense of humour.  I am truly happy for her.


  1. The British girls have made me so proud. I'm thrilled for Beth and even more thrilled for what they are doing for the sport in the UK. Fantastic again Brigid!

  2. I felt so bad for Kexin and Elisabeth that I just wanted to reach through my computer screen and give them both big, big hugs.

    But I'm so happy for Beth. Love her bars set.

  3. Kexin needs a hug, stat.
    It's the first competition in UB that she's ever lost, which is understandable why she's so upset, but this little piggy is more upset for her COUNTRY.
    The first thing she said to the interviewers? That she was SORRY. Not that the bars were slippery, not that it was an off day for her, that she was sorry for letting China down and losing a gold that she could bring back.

    Her biggest regret was that her mistake let everyone else down; she hadn't thought twice that she lost a gold for herself.

  4. This makes me so happy, this whole entire post, except for the picture of He, which makes me very sad and I want to go give her a hug and force feed her a giant milkshake.
    But now? Now, I totally want to take Beth and Alicia out for drinks. Worlds needs to be in the US STAT so I can arrange that.

  5. I thought Beth's bars in Beijing were way too choppy and ugly, but she has actually improved that quite a bit over the last two years. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy for her and just a touch bit happy that the Chinese both fell. It's horrible, I know, but I guess we all have a little bit of horrible in us.

    Also, I am absolutely loving all of your write-ups from worlds. I honestly can't say that enough...

  6. I'm an ecstatic Brit, but did feel sad for He especially. I never like seeing the gymnasts cry. Olympic and world champion, came for one thing only. No, she'll have come for the team title too, and I think although personally she did really well there, they'll have felt dissapointed with the bronze.

    Just a couple of additions, Beth has also completed two university degrees while at the top of international competition. Also she acts as mentor to other up and coming British athletes, World champion diver Tom Dayley being one of them.

    Amanda has recently married, and is now Amanda Reddin.

  7. Bwahahahaha! I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall near Amanda and Beth!

    Thanks for all these little insights. :)

  8. Great post.. it made me laugh and cry..

  9. Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves...