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Gymnastics: Purvis success helps to raise the gold standard

Daniel Purvis is hoping to collect his fourth British all-around title next weekend   Photograph: Getty
Daniel Purvis is hoping to collect his fourth British all-around title next weekend Photograph: Getty

Daniel Purvis knows that becoming British champion could be more difficult than topping the world rankings. The three-times champion seeks to reclaim his British all-around title at the Echo Arena in Liverpool next weekend but the competition has never been fiercer.

The following weekend, the 23-year-old Scot is in Tokyo for the final World Cup event of the season and having won medals in the previous three - in Stuttgart, Glasgow and Greensboro - just one more podium place will see him on top of the world rankings.

British gymnastics has never been in such rude health and the medals at major international events show no sign of drying up. Last weekend, 18-year-old Scot Frank Baines won his first medal as a senior, the 2012 European junior all-around champion taking silver in the parallel bars at the World Challenge Cup in Cottbus, Germany.

Purvis has been something of a mentor for Baines, with both being members of the Southport YMCA club. The younger gymnast suffered a broken back last year which put a question mark against his future in the sport, but he has returned, bolder than ever and hoping to have a Commonwealth Games to look forward to.

"Frank was made up getting the silver medal, especially after his injury last year," Purvis says. "It was good to see him get his first senior medal. We've trained together now for the last three years. There's a five-year age gap so, in some respects, he has looked up to me. But now we work together and learn off each other which is really good. Sometimes there is only the two of us in the gym so it keeps us on our toes.

"I saw him quite a bit when he was injured as he was in the gym just doing leg work and what he could. It was obviously a difficult time for him, but I just tried to keep him upbeat. He's a strong character to come through that and not be fazed afterwards. That was the only thing I was worried about, what he'd be like mentally. But he's come through it even stronger.

"It was a bit unexpected getting his medal. In training, we thought it was a possibility, but to do it under pressure like that was great to see."

Purvis, Baines and Daniel Keatings are favourites to fill three of the five men's places in Team Scotland for Glasgow 2014, but 2006 Commonwealth bronze medallist Adam Cox, Tom Barnes (Tolworth) and Ryan McKee (City of Glasgow) are also putting forward strong cases and looking to impress at the British Championships.

Scottish gymnasts have until the end of next month to make their case with the Commonwealth Invitation event in Perth being the final selection competition. But, for the top English gymnasts, next weekend represents their last chance to convince the selectors, adding an extra edge. Max Whitlock, Sam Oldham, Kristian Thomas and Louis Smith - who along with Purvis won team bronze for Great Britain at London 2012 - are all competing.

Smith, twice an individual Olympic medallist, is back in the mix after 18 months out of competition when, amongst other things, he won BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. He made his comeback at last weekend's English Open, taking silver in the pommel horse, behind Whitlock.

"It was a bit of a shock for me as I wasn't sure what level he'd be at, but he came in and his pommel routine was almost as good as when he went out of the sport," Purvis says.

"It was really interesting and I think it's going to be tough for the selectors on the England side. It was good to see him come back so strong and it seems to have done him some good having quite a bit of time off.

"But everyone looks up for it so I think it will be one of the highest-level British Championships. Everything is going well for us individually, so it'll be interesting.

"The banter has already started ahead of the Commonwealth Games because we all know each other and obviously compete together as Great Britain.

"England have strength in depth in their team but, if we can hit our routines, then we can give them a run for their money.

"There's certainly a bit of talk about the different apparatus. They will say they're going to batter us on pommel and we say we'll batter them on parallel bars. It's just all fun and games and the closer it gets to the competition, I think we'll appreciate that we can't really be slagging each other off.

"But I think if we can match England as close as we can then that will give us our best chance of getting in the top three. It would be great to get a team medal and push England."

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