As he arrived in Birmingham to compete in his first Commonwealth Games, Jake Jarman had almost no experience to draw upon in one of the biggest meets of his life. He is just 20 and over the past 18 months his emergence as a senior gymnast had been complicated by the sparse competition calendar during Covid and injuries that agitated him until March this year.
But his talent has always been undeniable, long positioning him as one of Great Britain’s most promising gymnasts for the future. He is now also its present. After a dramatic tussle, he rose to become the Commonwealth Games men’s all-around gold medallist, edging past his veteran teammate, James Hall, by .550 with a score of 83.900. Cyprus’s Marios Georgiou finished with bronze.
“With the support of the team behind me, especially with the team behind me, it really showed me that I can do this,” he said. “I put the work in. It was just a matter of keeping calm, staying composed. Enjoying the competition makes it so much better.”
In the women’s all-around final, Australia’s Georgia Godwin continued her excellent championship by producing a small upset, following up Australia’s team silver by winning the individual gold medal with a score of 53.5. While England’s Alice Kinsella and Ondine Achampong qualified in the top two spots, both gymnasts relinquished the gold medal with falls on the balance beam. Achampong, however, rallied to win silver with a tremendous floor routine.
Jarman is a supremely powerful gymnast, particularly on the floor exercise and vault, where he completes some of the most difficult skills in the world, and he has gradually built an all-around programme to compete with quality rivals.
From the beginning of the final, he was on fire. He opened the day by nailing his floor routine, smoothly executing a series of enormous tumbling passes. Hall, who had qualified in first place, kept pace until the duel was defined by the vaulting table.
First Jarman opted to attempt his supremely difficult Yonekura vault, a handspring vault with 3.5 twists that carries the joint highest difficulty value of 6.0 in the code of points, registering a huge score of 15.3. Moments later, Hall stepped out of bounds on his vault, injuring his ankle and scoring only 13.8.
Although Hall was in excruciating pain and trailing by over a point, he put Jarman under pressure until the end. But Jarman did not falter, commanding his parallel bars and high bar routines without hesitation to win. As he digested the biggest achievement of his young career, Jarman thought back to the inspiration the 2012 Olympics provided him with, and then to his own future.
“I remember sitting there wanting to be like that, wanting to have that opportunity,” he said. “These competitions feel like a huge stepping stone on that way. I feel like after today, anything is possible.”
An unwelcome feature of this year’s Games is its brutal, compact schedule. The women’s team final finished at 9:30pm on Saturday, with a round of media and recovery after that, yet they had to return early the next day to be ready at 2:30pm for the all-around final.
Many gymnasts in the women’s all-around final appeared to be feeling the strain. Achampong was slightly less sharp, even as she remained solid.
Despite great amplitude on her double-twisting double-back somersault vault, then a smooth start to her complex uneven-bar routine, she dismounted from both pieces with her chest low. Then she fell on the balance beam, but the 18-year-old demonstrated the resilience that will guide her to more success.
“I try to split up my competition into each piece,” she said. “Once one piece is over, it’s fine. If a mistake comes, I’ll just deal with it. It’s fine. And once I’ve done it, just move on to the next piece.”
She moved on without hesitation, first recovering in the beam routine to register an acceptable score of 12.5, then she finished with one of the best floor routines of her life, smashing down a series of stuck tumbling passes to secure silver. “I would’ve said floor was my weakest piece, but after doing that, I might have to rework it,” she said, laughing.
For a while, Kinsella’s day followed a similar path. She was solid on vault and then she executed a spotless uneven bars routine, save for starting the routine late and incurring a 0.3 neutral deduction. But then it rapidly deteriorated. She eventually fell on the beam before struggling badly throughout the rest, leaving her with a brutal score of 11.0. After falling again on the floor, both in the warm-up and routine, she left the podium in tears, and fourth place, as Arena Birmingham offered her a loud ovation.