‘Old man’ Whitlock has more in the tank for Tokyo


Gymnastics – 2021 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships – St. Jakobshalle, Basel, Switzerland – April 22, 2021 Britain’s Max Whitlock in action during the men’s pommel horse REUTERS / Arnd Wiegmann / File Photo

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Max Whitlock will be the old man of Britain’s artistic gymnastics team in Tokyo, but he still feels he can deliver on his promises as he prepares for his third Games.

A gold medalist on pommel horse and floor at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the 28-year-old also has three bronze medals – all around Rio and the London 2012 team and pommel.

“I’m at an age where a lot of gymnasts are retiring, maybe even retired,” the three-time pommel world champion told reporters during the team’s announcement this week.

“I’m 28 and the maximum age for gymnasts is around 22 or 23, but I continue and still do these teams. I am the oldest on the team but I hope I still go to all competitions with the potential to obtain a title. “

Whitlock, who will be joined by debutants Giarnni Regini-Moran and Joe Fraser, both 22 and 25-year-old James Hall, thinks even further.

“I still see improvements in what I can do between now and Paris (2024). There are definitely more skills and more upgrades I can learn,” said the champion. “There is no way it will stop anytime soon.

“I have almost a cycle older than these guys, but it’s actually a sense of pride,” he added. “I always feel like there’s more to the tank.”

The recent European Championships in Switzerland haven’t gone well, going without a medal in his first competition in over 18 months, but Whitlock insisted the experience was worth it.

“It’s important to make those mistakes there. I hope I don’t make those mistakes in Tokyo,” he said.

Whitlock is ready for a very different experience from previous Games.

The home of seven-time Olympic medalist and three-time champion Kohei Uchimura, there are plenty of passionate local fans, but it remains to be seen how many can attend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitlock said he was prepared for any eventuality, including moving his pommel horse to an empty room to practice in absolute silence.

“I hope to do so in the next few weeks,” he said.

“I train in a recreation center so I really have room for myself to just move the pommel to the next hall and have nothing around.

The pressure, he said, was growing steadily and he knew he would feel he hadn’t done his job properly if he came home without a medal.

“It’s hard not to think about the medals after the previous results but I really try to remember them. A title would be a dream, it would be incredible but for me, it is above all about going there”, said the Briton.

“My goal is to perform a clean routine. I hope that will help the team, help me individually and hopefully win a title.”

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