Emotional start to Games for Louis Smith

Cambridgeshire's Louis Smith on the pommel horse during team qualification on day one of the London 2012 Olympics Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Cambridgeshire gymnast Louis Smith was overcome with emotion after he produced a stunning pommel horse routine in Olympic qualification at the North Greenwich arena on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Peterborough gymnast landed a near-perfect routine to score 15.800 to rapturous applause from the home crowd, and had tears in his eyes as he saw the result of all the years of effort displayed on the scoreboard.

It means Smith will compete in the pommel horse final next Sunday, with his routine helping the British team secure their place in their first team final since 1924.

The action in London was being followed by his gymnastics club in Huntingdon.

Britain outscored defending champions China by 2.435 points, amassing a total of 272.420, but must now wait until the remaining two subdivisions are completed before their qualification is confirmed.

An emotional Louis Smith from Cambridgeshire after his pommel horse routine in the gymnastics team qualification Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

After watching Kristian Thomas complete the final routine, Smith returned to salute the crowd and embraced his team-mate in a release of sheer emotion.

"It was just unbelievable relief," Smith said.

"It's been an emotional four years for the whole of British gymnastics and there's been a lot of pressure since Beijing to perform at these Olympics.

"Losing my nan in 2009 was a very big part of my life so there was a lot of pressure riding on my pommel horse routine. I couldn't stop thinking about the future and providing for my family so it was nice to be able to go through it. A lot of people, friends and family have put a lot of hours into my life to help me achieve that dream so it's nice to try and give a little back."

– LOUIS SMITH

Smith's routine capped a magnificent performance by the British team.Thomas led the all-around competition after the first subdivision of three, ahead of Daniel Purvis in second.

Louis Smith shows emotion after his pommel horse routine during the Artistic Gymnastics team qualification at the North Greenwich Arena Credit: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

The top 24 gymnasts who competed on all six pieces of apparatus will qualify for the all-around final, with Thomas also a contender for the individual vault final.

Alongside stellar individual performances, Smith knows the British team have all but assured their place in the team final.

"We had a target score of 270 plus and we came out and delivered," Smith said. "We showed the world what we're capable of."

Smith had little time to reflect on the routine he had just produced but admitted it was unlike anything he had experienced before.

"It's hard to try and explain what I felt when I landed that pommel horse routine," he said."I even heard my self say 'come on' to myself twice. I've never actually done that before."It came close in Beijing but this time, I've never experienced anything like it in my life, and then to watch Kristian go through the last pommel horse routine, it just caps an amazing eight weeks of training that we've had."

Click here to see an interview with Louis Smith's mum on the eve of the Olympic Games