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Max Whitlock: My Olympic debut was the stuff of dreams
MAX Whitlock admitted his Olympic debut was beyond his wildest dreams as he helped Great Britain’s men qualify for an historic final and booked himself a spot in the pommel horse final.
The 19-year-old is now eyeing up the possibility of a medal and says what he achieved with the team on day one of the Games is still sinking in.
“To be honest I still can’t believe what we’ve done,” said the teenager, who trains at Basilson’s Sporting Village.
“To qualify the team for the final for the first time in history — and beat China and Japan in process — is just unbelievable.
“The crowd were incredible and nothing I have ever done at any competition compares to that. “As we walked out into the arena we got a standing ovation — it is a memory I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
The team of Whitlock, Sam Oldham, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas and Daniel Purvis were in the first qualifying subdivision of the day. That meant they had to wait for the results from the next two subdivisions before they were certain of their place in the final.
That came late in the afternoon following a poor performance from Japan in the second subdivision, and late on Saturday night it was confirmed that GB had qualified in third place behind powerhouses America and Russia but ahead of reigning Olympic Champions, China by over two and a half marks.
Whitlock said he felt that GB qualifying for the team final for the first time in 88 years has eased the pressure on them, and that success in today’s final would be a brilliant bonus.
“To qualify for the first time ever is a big achievement in itself, so we will now just go out there and enjoy ourselves.
“We will not read too much into qualification. China and Japan will up their games for the final, we know that. “So we don’t want too much expectation on us, we just want to go out there and do as well as we can, and if we do that I’m sure we’ll all be happy at the end of the day.”
Whitlock and his coach Scott Hann sat nervously in the stands at the North Greenwich Arena on Saturday evening to watch the third and final qualifying round of the day and see whether he had qualified for the pommel final. Whitlock occupied the eighth and last final berth as the action unfolded and had to hold his breath as the histor-ically strong pommel workers from Romania completed the final rotation on the horse.
He said: “You never want other competitors to fall off, you always want them to do as well as they can, but it was so hard to watch for me. “And when it was over and I realised I’d scraped into that final it was just an unbelievable feeling.
“Pommel is my personal speciality and I really wanted to make this final, so I’m delighted I have.”
Smith qualified in first place in the pommel with a flawless routine which scored 15.800 and earned a thunderous roar of approval from the partisan home crowd.
The images of Smith crying tears of joy after his perform-ance became an early iconic moment at the Games as the focal point of the team’s in-credible opening day showing.
Whitlock scored 14.900 on the pommel and admitted he “mucked up” his routine a bit.
But he said he will increase the starting difficulty score of his routine from 6.4 to 6.6 to increase his chances of medalling in the final on Sunday (August 5).
“I feel like there is no pressure on me for the pommel final,” he said. “I will increase my starting score and if I do a clean routine that’s the best I can do. But I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Whitlock, who competed on five of the six apparatus, also produced an eye-catching performance on the floor for a score of 15.200.
It one of his best ever marks at that discipline in an inter-national competition, and it earned rave reviews from the commentators as it was screened live to millions of viewers on BBC3.
And when asked what it felt like to become an Olympian for the first time in front of a worldwide audience and at a home Games, Whitlock said: “It was just crazy and some-thing that’s difficult to put into words.
“The nerves started to kick in for me just before the competition when we first stepped into the arena because it was dark with just a few spot lights starting to come on.
“But then, as we went through the competition, we all started to relax into it and show what we can do.”