BETH PLANNING FINAL MISSION; OLYMPIC GAMES 2008 MERSEY MEDAL HOPES PART FIVE OF SIX Beijing, China, August 8-24 City Hero Sets Her Sights on a Perfect End to Olympic Dream
Byline: James Pearce Sport Writer
BETH TWEDDLE is the most successful athlete in the history of British gymnastics.
The 23-year-old City of Liverpool star has enjoyed a stunning run of success since she made her international debut a decade ago.
In 2002 she became the first British female gymnast to claim a medal at the European Championships when she took bronze on the uneven bars and she went on to clinch gold at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.
Two years ago she was crowned Britain's first world champion after a fine performance in Denmark.
All that is missing from Tweddle's lengthy list of achievements is an Olympic medal.
In Athens four years ago she failed to qualify for the bars final and a disastrous beam routine wrecked her all-around competition hopes as she finished 19th.
Beijing represents her final chance of glory on the biggest stage of them all and she is determined to rise to the occasion.
Tweddle, who is currently training with the Great Britain team at their preparation camp in Macau, said: "A medal of any colour would be the icing on the cake for me.
"That's my ultimate goal but it's not somethjng that if I don't achieve, I'll look back on and regret.
Anything is possible. All the teams are so close, it's all about what we can do on the day. We've got good depth and strength in our team."
The seven-times British champion heads a six-strong women's squad that will compete in Beijing and she hopes a successful Games will help to raise the sport's profile in this country.
"I think a gold would dramatically change the sport," she said.
"I mean just from the results I've had, a lot of people have said they've had kids coming up to them and saying I want to be like Beth and joining clubs.
"Hopefully, kids would get more involved with the sport. They do it at school level but it's taking it from the school level to the elite level."
Tweddle's preparations for Beijing have been affected by a number of niggling injury problems.
An ankle problem meant she was unable to defend her all-around title at the National Championships earlier this year and her training this week has been hampered by a rib injury.
However, Tweddle, who missed the Commonwealth Games two years ago due to injury, insisted: "The ankle is getting there.
"Obviously the doctors and physios are keeping a close eye on me and my personal coach is just making sure everything is staying in place.
"I haven't changed my training preparation since I've come here. I'm happy with how it's progressing and hopefully I'll be fully fit.
"No decisions have been made as to what pieces people are competing on yet, but my main focus is obviously bars and floor.
"I'd like to compete in the all-around but we'll just have to see how the body's holding up and what the team's needs are."
At 23, Tweddle is a veteran of the sport. She has yet to decide on a retirement date but admits she won't still be around for the London Olympics in four years time.
"I'd love to go to a home Games, but I think my body is going to be too old for 2012," she said. "I'll have to leave it to the younger members of the team. There are a lot of kids out there are looking promising."
Tweddle, who has a degree in sports science at John Moores University, is already planning for the future. …