Max Whitlock to lead Great Britain at World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp

Echo: World Championships debut - Max Whitlock World Championships debut - Max Whitlock

DOUBLE Olympic medalist Max Whitlock will head up a strong British men’s team at this month’s World Championships in Antwerp.

The Basildon-based gymnast, the 2013 English and British all-round champion, will be joined by fellow London 2012 stars Daniel Purvis from Southport, Sam Oldham from Nottingham, and Kristian Thomas from Wolverhampton, at an event which is second only in status to the Olympics.

The experienced Dan Keatings, from Corby, is also included, as is Leeds’ Ashley Watson, who pipped Whitlock’s South Essex club-mate Reiss Beckford to the final place on the team.

The competition will give the country’s top competitors the chance to show their progression since London 2012 and a chance to lay down a serious marker for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

“I’m over the moon for Max,” said his South Essex coach Scott Hann.

“He was in pole position so it was expected, but it is still nice to see him go through the routines and qualify outright.

“He continues to show that he is a real competitor and he’s doing fantastically at the moment.

“Max will be an all-rounder and, although it is an individual competition, he will certainly be aiming to lead the team out with good scores.”

Beckford, 21, will be a reserve and Hann said he was unlucky to miss out on one of the coveted spots.

Hann said: “Reiss was in a good position to qualify on floor and high bar but it was just the decision on the day and the final qualification which determined that he would be sitting on the bench again this time, which is obviously tough for him but that’s the way it goes.”

Whitlock, 20, won the London Open last week and told the Echo afterwards he was thrilled about the prospect of competing at his first-ever World Championships, having already tasted success at European, Commonwealth and Olympic level.

“An individual World Championships gives an indication as to the progress of gymnasts from the top nations and the improvements made in the new cycle,” said men's coach Eddie van Hoof.

“For the British boys it gives a chance to show upgraded routines and the opportunity for individual gymnasts to shine."

The World Championships will be held at the Antwerp Sports Palace between September 30 and October 6.

Britain’s men will get underway in qualification in subdivision two at 2pm on Monday, September 30, with the finals for all the individual apparatuses being held the following weekend.

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