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British gymnast's silver is something to sing about

Published: 9:27AM Monday August 06, 2012 Source: Reuters

Louis Smith is very happy that he decided to become a gymnast and not a schoolboy chorister. They don't give Olympic medals for singing.

As a child, the Briton had to choose between gymnastics or a chorister's scholarship to a private school.

His choice led him, on Sunday, to a pommel horse silver medal at the London Games which, with team mate Max Whitlock's bronze, gave the home team their best gymnastics result at the Olympics.

"Great Britain are making history - it's a fantastic day for the sport," said Smith who, briefly, thought he had won gold when the scoreboard showed he had the same total, 16.066 points, as Krisztian Berki before the Hungarian was awarded the gold on a tiebreak.

Not that Smith was complaining about silver, Britain's first in gymnastics since Walter Tysal finished runner-up in the all-around at the 1908 London Olympics.

"I have got a silver medal, I have got my third Olympic medal," Smith, who also helped Britain to team bronze last Monday and won pommel horse bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games, told reporters.

"All those years ago I didn't think I would go to the Olympic Games and get three medals so I am very happy right now."

After problems in training with his hardest routine, Smith decided to perform a slightly less complicated version on the Olympic stage and was happy with his decision.

"My target was to come here and do my routine clean," he said. "Can you imagine if I had made a mistake, I would feel like the whole 19 years (of training) was a waste of time."

Smith, the son of a single mother, dedicated his life to gymnastics above all else at a young age.

"Eight years old, having ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), I had to make a choice between singing and gymnastics," he said. "I couldn't stand still to sing so I chose gym."

While he briefly revived his singing ambitions, auditioning unsuccessfully four years ago for the X Factor television talent show, Smith, who said he now sang only in the shower and the car, is happy with his choices.

"A lot of people talk about you missing out on childhood and (say) do you regret it," Smith said before letting out a laugh. "I've got three Olympic medals, I'm a gymnast, I'm only 23 years old and what a journey I have had."

What of the future and another crack at that elusive Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, he was asked?

"I would love to settle down and have kids and do the other route of life but at the same time it is the only medal not in my collection from the Olympic Games," he said.

"The future for me, who knows? Max is coming up; when he starts beating me I am not sure how much longer I can blag my way into the team. I am only 23 but my body feels 40."

His more immediate plans were much more concrete: "I can't wait to go out and have a drink and have a McDonalds."