Max Whitlock pushes to the limit

Max Whitlock - in action in Portugal this weekend

Max Whitlock - in action in Portugal this weekend

First published in Sport
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MAX Whitlock will attempt the world’s hardest pommel horse routine in Portugal this weekend as he plots his route to a gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The London 2012 bronze medallist will attempt to execute a display with the highest difficulty tariff ever attempted on the apparatus at the Challenge Cup in Anadia.

The 20-year-old South Essex Gymnastics Club superstar’s new routine will have a difficulty start score of 7.3 and could potentially earn a whopping 16.3 mark.

The highest previously was a 7.1 by Great Britain superstar Louis Smith, and 16.066 won gold for the legendary Hungarian Krisztian Berki at London 2012.

Scott Hann, who trains Whitlock at the Basildon Sporting Village, admits it is a risky strategy but one they need to take to boost their chances of gold in Rio.

Hann said: “It is likely to take a couple of years for Max to get used to it, and he probably will fall at some events.

“It could even mean he might mess up at the World Championships at the end of the year, or the next European’s, but it is a risk he’ll have to take if he wants to be in with a chance of gold on pommel in Rio.”

Whitlock was Great Britain’s top performer at the European Championships in Moscow in April with a medal of every colour, and will be a contender for honours on the floor and as an all-rounder at future major events.

But his specialism has always been on the pommel, and he admits he is looking forward to taking his game onto the next the level this weekend.

He said: “I’ve competed against Berki a few times and he’s shown what it takes to be an Olympic gold medallist, so I look at him and realise that’s what it takes.

“That’s why I am trying something this difficult in a world cup competition to start with because, if I can get it right, it could be important for me in the future major competitions. You have to be ambitious to compete at the very top level.

“I’ve made the routine 16 times in practice over the past two weeks which I am really happy with. But it’s pretty exhausting!

“Now I’m just looking forward to trying it out in competition.”

Whitlock’s South Essex club-mate Reiss Beckford will also be competing in Portugal on the floor, rings, parallel bar and high bar.

His aim is to prove he is worth a place alongside Whitlock in the GB team which travel to the World Championships in Belgium in September.

Hann said: “Reiss wants to show he is worth a spot on that GB team.

“With my GB hat on it is great to have guys like Reiss knocking on the door, because it shows what strength in depth we have.

“I know he’s is one of the best gymnasts in the county but all he needs to do is put it altogether now.”

Great Britain’s Theo Seager is also competing at the event, which will have qualification rounds for all six apparatus tomorrow (Friday), finals for floor, pommel horse and still rings on Saturday, and finals for vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar on Sunday.

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