Mighty Max Whitlock ready to defend his title at the British Gymnastics Championships

Max Whitlock, centre, won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year. Picture (c) PA Wire/Press Association Images
Max Whitlock, centre, won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year. Picture (c) PA Wire/Press Association Images

Hemel Hempstead’s superstar gymnast Max Whitlock is looking to start the season in style at the weekend as he heads to Liverpool’s Echo Arena to defend his title at the British Gymnastics Championships.

Max will go head-to-head with his friends and team-mates at the event, where he is promising to unleash a new set of skills.

“The big target for me is to go out there and show some new routines,” said Max. “I’ve been working on quite a few new skills that I’m putting in over a few apparatus so that should hopefully up my starter scores quite a lot.

“Hopefully, if I can get them as clean as I can, my overall score at the end of the competition will be bigger. That’s my target, to try and beat my personal best.

“I think you’ve got to focus on bettering yourself. A quote which I read before basically said that you shouldn’t worry about what other people are doing and I think that’s what I try to do.

“I try to focus on myself, enjoying the experience and do the best that I can. That’s what I go to the championships to do, and if I can get a result out of that, then I’m happy.”

Max has always enjoyed an excellent relationship with his fellow Great Britain squad members, and he is relishing the chance to take them on once again in Liverpool.

“It’s brilliant, I know everyone looks forward to it,” he said. “We take the competition very seriously but we also bounce off each other a lot and we really push each other. It will be a good marker of where everyone is at before the first major championship, the Europeans in April.

“It’s all building up to the World Championships at the end of the year and hopefully we can all go and do well and keep pushing as a team.

“That’s what it’s all about; we need to keep going strong and keep pushing through to the end of the year as this is all a trial for the Rio Olympics which is the really important one.

“Everything is looking towards Rio because it’s really starting to get closer now quite quickly. But it’s a step at a time – hopefully we will do well in each of the stages and then qualify in a nice solid place and have a comfortable team going into Rio.”

Max goes into the British Championships as the one to beat, having won the competition in convincing style last year, and he admits that this does add to the pressure.

“I think going into the event as reigning champion can put extra pressure on yourself but I think that you have to try and ignore it,” he said. “The more pressure that I can take off myself the better, and that’s what I try to do in every competition.

“I’m not going there thinking I want to come away with first place, I’m thinking of my own job – just making clean routines. That’s how I try to take the pressure off myself and make me perform better.”

Max had a topsy-turvy time at last year’s World Championships, failing to qualify for the final before taking the place of injured team-mate Nile Wilson and eventually taking the silver medal – an experience which he says has been a real eye-opener.

“It’s been a massive learning curve and hopefully I can go forward into this year and next year learning from that competition and performing better,” said Max.

“It really identified what my weaker pieces are when you look at my lower scores compared to the rest of the world. I was a fair bit behind on rings and high bar, so I’ve tried to up those starter scores.

“Hopefully it pays off; obviously it adds risk factor but we will see at the end of the day if I can come out with a bigger score.

“I’m also trying a big one on floor and aiming to up it on P-bar so I’m just trying to get everything as high as I can at the moment and then consolidate everything on the road to Rio.”