London – Two-time Olympic gold medalist Max Whitlock will be the elder statesman of Britain’s artistic gymnastics team at the Tokyo Olympics but still feels he can deliver as he prepares for his third games.
The 28-year-old was a gold medalist on the pommel horse and on the floor at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and also owns bronze medals from the all around in Rio and team and pommel horse events at the 2012 games in London.
“I am at an age where a lot of gymnasts are retiring, maybe even retired,” Whitlock, a three-time pommel horse world champion, told reporters after the Olympic team was announced this week.
“I’m 28 and the peak age for gymnasts is about 22 or 23 but I’m still going and I’m still making these teams. I am the oldest one in the team but I’m still hopefully going to every competition with the potential to get a title.”
Whitlock, who will be joined by debutants Giarnni Regini-Moran and Joe Fraser, both 22, and 25-year-old James Hall, is also thinking even further ahead.
“I still see improvements in terms of what I can do from now until Paris (in 2024). There’s definitely more skills and more upgrades I can learn,” he said. “There’s no chance in stopping any time soon.
“I’m almost a cycle older than these guys but that’s actually kind of a really proud feeling,” he added. “I still feel like there’s more in the tank.”
While Whitlock failed to win a medal at the recent European championships in Switzerland, his first first competition in more than 18 months, he insisted the experience had been worthwhile.
“It’s important to make those mistakes there,” he said. “Hopefully I won’t make those mistakes in Tokyo.”
Whitlock is prepared for a very different experience at the upcoming games.
Japan is the home of seven-time Olympic medalist Kohei Uchimura and has plenty of passionate fans, but it remains to be seen how many will be able to attend the games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whitlock said he was preparing for every eventuality, including moving his pommel horse into an empty hall to train in absolute silence.
“I’m planning to do that hopefully within the next few weeks,” he said.
“I train within a leisure center, so it’s definitely got the space for me to just move the pommel into the hall next door and have nothing around it.”
The pressure, he said, was building steadily and he knew he would feel he had not done his job properly if he came home without a medal.
“It’s hard not to think about medals after previous results but I really try to put them to the back of my mind. A title would be a dream, it would be amazing but for me it’s all about going there,” the Briton said.
“My goal is to perform a clean routine. That’s going to hopefully help the team, help me individually and hopefully gain a title.”
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