‘This year was amazing but was also a massive learning curve’

Max Whitlock (centre) on the podium with Dan Keatings and Nile Wilson at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Picture (c) PA Wire/Press Association Images
Max Whitlock (centre) on the podium with Dan Keatings and Nile Wilson at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Picture (c) PA Wire/Press Association Images

Thoughts of Rio are never far from the mind of Hemel Hempstead gymnast Max Whitlock but the world all-around silver medallist admits the first priority is building up his difficulty level for next season.

The 21-year-old is currently enjoying a well-earned rest after a busy year which saw him compete in the European Championships, Commonwealth Games and World Championships in the space of four months.

Despite the heavy workload, the double Olympic bronze medallist still made sure to expand his impressive haul of medals, including pommel horse gold and team silver at the European Championships in Sofia.

No fewer than four Commonwealth medals – of which three were gold – followed in Glasgow, before he rounded things off with all-around silver at the World Championships in China last month.

And while the long-term focus is improving on his two medals from London 2012, Whitlock admits getting closer to five-time all-around world champion Kohei Uchimura is another of his aims.

“I’ve been thinking about Rio since the day after London 2012 and me and my coach have a strong plan so hopefully we can continue it on the road to Rio,” said Whitlock.

“This year was amazing but also a massive learning curve for me.

“Competitions close together is a tough job in itself and we had to learn to peak and be in top condition at the right time. We had to adapt our training to suit that.

“For me, my focus is the all around. I’m going to keep pushing that.

“As a gymnast you have to keep pushing individual apparatus as well; especially for me the pommel horse has been the main focus for a very long time.

“But the more I do all around and the different apparatus, it will hopefully strengthen the whole lot together and I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings.

“I’m working on some new skills to put in my routines and hopefully I can come out with them next year and then it’s all about trying to get that big all-around score.”

Whitlock was the second youngest member of the squad which claimed team bronze at London 2012.

Although with the likes of Nile Wilson and Courtney Tulloch both making their senior world debuts this year, Whitlock admits he is now having to keep an eye over his shoulder at the emerging competition in the team.

“It was a bit of a shock after World Championships. I’m actually starting to get to be one of the older ones and I’ve always been the baby of the team,” he added.

“But it’s great because hopefully I can give a few pointers to the young ones; they’ll keep pushing and we can be strong.

“Like Courtney and Nile, they’re showing such confidence when they compete even though they are so young and inexperienced when it comes to competition.

“But they go out there and do it like they’ve done it a thousand times and that’s what we need, we need competition in the team.”

> Through GSTMC, the British Olympic Foundation, in conjunction with the British Paralympic Association is using the spirit of the London Games to re-inspire young people across the UK. The project is being supported by a £2.5m grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Keeping the Spirit of 2012 Alive campaign. Visit www.makeachange.org.uk to find out more