BASILDON-based Max Whitlock rose to the occasion once again as he became the first British gymnast to defend a world title with victory in the men's pommel final at the World Championships in Montreal.

The double Olympic champion delivered an improved routine to score a huge 15.441 points, exceeding his qualification score of 15.300, and easily beating Russia's David Belyavskiy into silver.

The 24-year-old had taken a late gamble by adding an extra element for the eight-man final showdown, despite a bout of nerves which ended his hopes of reaching the floor final earlier this week.

The Briton's big decision paid off with a performance that underlined his complete dominance of the discipline, with Belyavskiy trailing on 15.100 and China's Xiao Ruoteng third on 15.066.

Whitlock said: "It made me more nervous when I realised I could be the first (Briton) to retain a world title. It means so much every time you make history for your country and to do it again at these World Championships is a dream.

"To be honest it's been quite a stressful build-up for me this year because I haven't been as confident as I would have liked. So to do this off the back of the 2015 world title and Rio last year is extra-special."

Whitlock admitted he had never been more nervous during qualification, an effect he put down to his abridged build-up to the competition after taking some time away from the sport in the wake of his Rio success to get married.

But he still took the brave decision to upgrade from a Single Russian to a Double Russian in his final routine, an element with which he knew he could virtually assure another gold medal provided he pulled it off.

Whitlock added: "I decided to increase my start score because I was in the back of the arena and I could hear the scores going on. I could hear some big ones so I talked to my coach Scott (Hann) and we decided we needed it.

"It's been a stressful build-up to this competition and to be honest it's been quite a stressful competition because I haven't been as confident as I would I have liked, so to do this off the back of Glasgow in 2015 and Rio is extra-special.

"It still wasn't a perfect routine. I've got to go away and work on some bigger upgrades. But today I'm so happy because of the build-up not being as perfect as I would have liked it."

Starting seventh of the eight finalists in a random draw, Whitlock nailed his routine to eclipse Belyavskiy, while a mistake by Oleg Verniaiev cost the Ukrainian contender the chance to threaten the lead.

Watching on, Nadia Comaneci, who scored her famous perfect 10 in the same venue 41 years ago, must have been impressed by Whitlock's mastery of his apparatus, particularly considering his tumultuous experience in qualifying.

He conceded his uncharacteristic uncertainly was down to that rare spell away from the gym, which had left him racing against time to nail the upgrades he desired in order to keep one step ahead of his rivals.

It was one of the reasons why the Briton has temporarily paused his quest to build on the all-around bronze medal he won in Rio in order to focus solely on his favourite two pieces of apparatus.

If his new floor routine presented evident problems it was a different story on the pommel, on which he has proved utterly dominant since he first emerged from the shadows of his GB team-mate Louis Smith.

As it turned out, even Whitlock's qualification score would have been enough to comfortably secure a second consecutive gold. But in the home of the perfect 10, his quest for excellence required him to go out in style.