DEFENDING champion Max Whitlock is set to ease through to the men’s pommel final on his return to Olympic competition in Tokyo.

Whitlock scored 14.9, ranking him in third place in the standings in the penultimate qualifying rotation, which effectively guarantees his qualification for the eight-man individual final.

Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan, who pipped Whitlock to gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, currently leads the pommel standings after a score of 15.266.

Whitlock, who trains at the South Essex Gymnastics Club in Basildon, tweeted: “Really pleased with qualifications today. Thanks so much for all the messages and everyone who was up early to watch!"