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Max Whitlock revelling in Team GB 'gymnastics dad' role

·2-min read
Max Whitlock of Britain on the pommel horse (Picture: Reuters) during training
Max Whitlock of Britain on the pommel horse (Picture: Reuters) during training

Max Whitlock is revelling in his role as the father figure among Team GB's young gymnasts - even taking charge of cutting their hair, writes James Toney.

The double Olympic champion from Hemel Hempstead shared a sweet video message from his two-year old daughter Willow as he started his defence in Tokyo.

And he then led his team-mates into the men's team final, while also booking his own spot in the pommel final, the event in which he is a three-time world and Olympic champion from Rio.

Now at his third Games, the 28-year-old is the only member of the squad with Olympic experience - and he's determined to make it count in a team that is very much building for the future.

“It's ‘Whitlock Barbers’, I think I've had quite a few happy customers and I'm getting better which is good," he said.

“I'm actually loving the role. I don't try to forcefully put myself into it but the boys ask a lot in terms of comparisons from previous Olympic Games compared to this one.

TOKYO 2020 - 'IT'S ALL GETTING EXCITING NOW!' - JADE JONES ON RELISHING TOKYO PRESSURE
TOKYO 2020 - 'IT'S ALL GETTING EXCITING NOW!' - JADE JONES ON RELISHING TOKYO PRESSURE

"I'm obviously happy to give that insight and hopefully I can help them in any way possible, and I think it's also a time where I'm learning a lot from them as well.

“The guys were all making their debut today and the girls will tomorrow. I think the excitement's a little bit higher than normal.

“Everyone's got that feeling of 'we're going to become Olympians' and they are massively positive, so it's definitely a nice team to be around.”

Whitlock though knows the rest of the world is coming for him after making the final eight of his pommel in fifth place, with key rivals Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan and Japan’s Kohei Kameyama just fractions ahead.

The team - which also includes Joe Fraser, Giarnni Regini-Moran and James Hall - made their final as the fifth of eight qualifiers.

“I think I can talk on behalf of every gymnast when I say that qualification is the hardest event. It's the most nerve-wracking," added Whitlock, whose Tokyo tilt is being broadcast live on Eurosport and Discovery+.

“It literally all rides on qualification. If you muck qualifications up, that's your Olympics done. If you don't, you can go on and have more opportunities to go and compete in this arena.

“It's nerve-wracking and we all felt that. You could feel it was competition day, it was a little bit quieter between the team, in the morning going to breakfast there wasn't as much talking as usual, but we've come out here and I feel like we've delivered, especially with the build-up.”

Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, the Streaming Home of the Olympics.

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