Ferrari leads Italy into the Olympics

London: Vanessa Ferrari hit full throttle on Wednesday as she led a super-charged Italian team to glory at the qualifying event for the 2012 Olympics.

Ferrari displayed the form that landed her the 2006 all-round world title by impressing the judges on all four apparatus to secure the Italians a place in the July 27-August 12 London Games.

Ferrari, Erika Fasana and Carlotta Ferlito made sure Italy held on to the lead from start to finish as they eclipsed Canada by 2.708 points. France and a hugely relieved Brazil overcame falls from the beam to snatch the final two spots to complete the 12-nation line-up for the team competition at the Olympics.

They join the United States, Russia, China, Romania, Britain, Germany, Japan and Australia, who had all booked their places at the world championships in October.

"We were well prepared. We have been training hard since July last year. After not getting through at the Tokyo world championships we continued to train even harder and are so, so happy to be here," said Italy`s Chiara Gandolfi.

While Italy enjoyed a smooth ride thanks to the nerveless displays of Ferrari, Fasana and Ferlito - who completed a sweep of the top three places in the all-round standings - the real drama was to see who would grab the last two places.

The occasion seemed to get to many of the competitors whose Olympic hopes disappeared in a flash after they lost their grip on the asymmetric bars or tumbled off the beam.

Brazil, who had become the crowd favourite following their rousing, high-energy routines on the floor, looked to be out of the running when Jade Barbosa lost her balance on the beam and slipped off.

Her mark of 11.866 left Brazil out of the top four and Barbosa broke down in tears as her team mates huddled around her in support.

She turned her back to the competition area, unable to watch her final team mate, Daniele Hypolito, execute her routine.

Once Hypolito completed her dismount, the Brazilians stood in a line holding hands, their eyes fixed on the large scoreboard as they anxiously awaited the final verdict.

As their total score of 217.985 flashed up, Brazil`s entire entourage of coaches and gymnasts erupted in joy and celebrated their last-gasp success in landing a place at the Olympics.

Bureau Report

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