GYMNASTICS: BETH Tweddle made gymnastics history again last weekend when she became the first British woman to win a world championships medal.
The 18-year-old British and Commonwealth champion from Bunbury beat strong competition from China and the Ukraine to earn bronze for her performance on the asymmetric bars in Anaheim, USA.
The result also contributed to the overall GB women's artistic team performance which saw them finish in the top 12 and qualify for the Athens Olympic Games next year.
Beth, who left The Queen's School at the end of last term, had fought back from serious injury in the past two years to reach the podium ahead of performers from more established gymnastic nations. Indeed, the level of competition set in the tournament was so high that even twice Olympic champion Svetlana Khorkina, of Russia, did not qualify for the final.
Team manager John Atkinson said: 'Two years ago, very few people in British Gymnastics would have even dreamed about such a success.
'The British women's team was the only one, out of the 37 teams taking part which went through its programme without a single mistake. And that, apart from Beth, was a team of debutants. What our girls achieved in Anaheim was very significant and very timely in view of the Olympics.'
Speaking of Beth's historic medal, UK Sport's chief executive Richard Callicott said: 'This fantastic result for Beth and British gymnastics shows that the standards of performance across British sport are steadily improving. To win a medal against such tough, world-class opposition is simply breathtaking and she should be congratulated, along with British Gymnastics and the City of Liverpool Club, who got her there.'
After improving on her fourth place at last year's World Championships, Beth said: 'I feel absolutely delighted. All the hard work in the gym has paid off. I had great support before, during and after the competition, from my coach Amanda Kirby who helped me stay calm and focussed, from all my team-mates who were telling me everything would be all right and from all the supporters in the audience.'
This is the second time Beth has made history for British gymnastics. In 2002 she became the first British woman to win a medal at the European Championships, also a bronze medal on the bars.
Amanda Kirby, who coaches her at the City of Liverpool club, put her success down to dedication and instinct. She said: 'On the A-bars she just feels it, she is like a cat and she works harder than anyone else in the gym.'
Beth is having a holiday in California this week, but she returns for a minor operation on her ankle before preparing for the Grand Prix in Glasgow in October when the Chinese and Russians will also compete.
* Saltney's Melanie Roberts, 15, returned from America this week after being reserve for Great Britain. She will also be working for a place in the team for next year's Olympics.