Ondine Achampong holds nerve as Claudia Fragapane claims fifth Commonwealth gold

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Claudia Fragapane landed a fifth Commonwealth Games gold medal (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)
Claudia Fragapane landed a fifth Commonwealth Games gold medal (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

Teenager Ondine Achampong nailed her crucial final vault to land women’s team gymnastics gold for England at Arena Birmingham on a night that could have spelled the swansong of former world medallist Claudia Fragapane.

In her first major multi-sports competition, 18-year-old Achampong shrugged off the inevitable nerves to score 14.15, enough to see off the surging Australian team, who had reduced the deficit to a mere 0.05 points going into the final rotation.

But it was Fragapane, a gymnast at the opposite end of her career, who brought the house down with a stirring floor routine that, whilst failing to land her a place in the individual final, proved a fitting send-off from her Commonwealth Games career as she claimed a fifth gold medal.

Alice Kinsella, Georgia-Mae Fenton and Kelly Simm were the other members of England’s victorious team.

England regained their women’s team gymnastics title in Birmingham (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)
England regained their women’s team gymnastics title in Birmingham (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

Fragapane had burst onto the scene at the 2014 Games in Glasgow, when she claimed four gold medals, and was forced to battle through a series of career-threatening injuries, including concussion and operations on her ankle and elbow, to earn her place in Birmingham.

Fragapane, 24, shared a lingering embrace with 27-year-old Simm, who also won a medal in Glasgow, and, with retirement talk in the air, she admitted: “This is definitely our last Commonwealth Games because we’re not going to go on for four more years.

“I’ve had four major injuries so just to get back and do it again was my main goal. I shouldn’t have come back so quickly but I pushed myself to get here. I’ll take it one step at a time – I’ve got to be careful with this fragile body now.”

Georgia-Mae Fenton and Ondine Achampong celebrated their gold medal win (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)
Georgia-Mae Fenton and Ondine Achampong celebrated their gold medal win (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

England, who were pipped by Canada to gold on the Gold Coast four years ago, started as heavy favourites to regain their title but it fell to a series of cool-headed vault performances to see them safely over the line.

“I was a bit nervous but I just told myself to go out and do the vault I usually do which is more than fine,” admitted Achampong, who delivered the decisive performance.

Besides the battle to beat the Australians, the secondary narrative became a fight between England team-mates to secure the two places per nation available for all-around and individual apparatus finals.

Alice Kinsella starred in front of her home fans (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)
Alice Kinsella starred in front of her home fans (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

Birmingham-born Kinsella topped the all-around qualifying standings on 54.450, 0.3 clear of second-placed Achampong, with Fenton, who finished fourth, the unlucky one to be eliminated.

But Fenton, the defending champion, will contest the uneven bars final after a top-scoring 14.0 ahead of Achampong, who was hugely impressive on what was her debut in senior international competition.

Kinsella, the 2019 European champion, was second best on beam behind Australia’s Georgia Godwin, with Fenton taking third and with it England’s second final place over Achampong by virtue of a higher execution rating.

Claudia Fragapane and Kelly Simm are set to end their illustrious careers (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)
Claudia Fragapane and Kelly Simm are set to end their illustrious careers (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

Kinsella again top-scored with 13.450 on the floor while, where Achampong will join her in the final. Fragapane finished well adrift of the final places with 12.450, but appeared content as the final twists and turns of her career played out.

Scotland’s Shannon Archer had a successful night, top-scoring in vault qualifying with 13.5 and also reaching the horizontal bars final, while she will be joined by compatriot Cara Kennedy in the all-around final.