All roads lead to Rio 2016 for Britain’s golden boy Max

European pommel horse champion Max Whitlock with coach Scott Hann
European pommel horse champion Max Whitlock with coach Scott Hann

Hemel Hempstead gymnast Max Whitlock put in a gold medal winning display at the European Championships last week – and he says he is hungry for more success.

Max returned from Bulgaria with gold on the pommel horse and silver as part of the GB men’s team, in another excellent competition for the Adeyfield man.

Speaking to the Gazette, Max said: “I’m really happy with the Euros and the whole competition was amazing.

“I was very happy with my individual medal and to get the team silver meant a lot because we struggled a bit at the start and managed to bring it back.

“It has brought us closer as a team and really showed us what we are capable of.”

Max has been tipped by many for a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and he bolstered his reputation with victory over reigning Olympic champion Krisztián Berki on the pommel horse.

“To beat Krisztián Berki is incredible,” said Max. “I’m really quite ambitious and as a sportsman you have got to aim high.

“He ranks as the best in the world at pommel horse but I’m trying to go above the 16-mark boundary.”

The Commonwealth Games get under way in Glasgow in July, and Max says he has his sights set on another medal haul.

“I’m working hard on all apparatus with the Commonwealths coming up,” he said. “I won three medals in Dehli so if I can match that or go even better, that would be great.

“Each of these competitions is a stepping stone towards Rio which, as I have always said, is my main aim.”

Max has become a talisman for British gymnastics, but he says that the continued success of the sport has been a real team effort.

He said: “I think we all work together quite equally. We are a close team and I think it’s hard to pick out a leader.

“It’s also great to see so many good juniors coming through, and we were watching each other in the competitions in the Euros and sticking together as much as we could.”

Despite his ice cool displays on the big stage, Max admits that it can be daunting at times.

“I do feel the pressure sometimes, but it can be a good thing in the competitions and it can get your adrenaline going,” he said.

“I try and take the pressure off myself a bit, though, by looking at these big competitions in the same way as I would with any competition.”

Max will now be training lightly for the next couple of weeks, before the training for the Commonwealth Games begins in earnest.

The Games begin on July 23 with the opening ceremony from Celtic Park.