Team GB gymnast Max Whitlock still fuelled by doubters ahead of Tokyo 2020 Olympics despite double gold heroics in Rio
MAX WHITLOCK says his entire career has been fuelled by wanting to prove people wrong.
There were times as a junior international gymnast that he was told he simply was not good enough.
One judge before the London 2012 Games laughed at the suggestion any Brit could win Olympic medals.
Even now, despite three medals at the Rio Olympics five years ago — including golds on the pommel horse and floor — there are those who still question whether Whitlock is the real deal.
Heading into the Tokyo Games — he kicks off on Saturday in team qualifying — the 28-year-old opened up on the anger he feels towards the doubters.
The Essex tumbler said: “It has fuelled a lot.
“I’ve had it so much of it. As a youngster I was told I would never score on the world stage and never be good enough.
“When selected for 2009’s Australian Youth Olympic Festival I was questioned why I made the team.
“People still don’t believe in me now. Some people will never believe in me for some reason.
“For me that is something that I massively, massively gain so much motivation from. Proving people wrong is a huge form of motivation.
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“I have made sure throughout my time I have used it to my advantage. Those people have helped me so much.
"I remember after London 2012, my coach Scott and I knew our plans and where we wanted to go.
“He said to the selectors, the heads of gymnastics, our target was to get three medals at a single major — and we were laughed at, which is hilarious now.
“Throughout those years from London towards Rio that was our mission and we wanted to prove ourselves as an all-rounder.
“I wanted to give myself the potential to get a title. I remember all those moments, they stick in my head.
“I was once told by a judge before London 2012 that two GB guys wouldn’t be able to place on the podium. And we did it.
“There have been a lot of times where people haven’t believed in me or what we can do or in what Scott said. It’s been a great part of it.”
Blocking out all the controversy and the Covid concerns, Whitlock will be the senior star of Team GB’s gymnastics squad — which contains three Olympic Games rookies in Joe Fraser, James Hall and Giarnni Regini-Moran.
In an attempt to push further boundaries and prove more critics wrong, Whitlock — who won bronze in the all-round at Rio 2016 — will focus on defending his pommel horse title and attack the horizontal bar plus the parallel bar in the team event.
This will be the longest time he has spent away from his wife Leah and excitable two-year-old daughter Willow.
He said: “It’s definitely harder this time to leave them. It’s nearly five weeks away overall.
“Fingers crossed, Willow’s still interested to see me on FaceTime. We’re eight hours ahead, so I get a window in the morning to chat to her.
“She tries on all my medals at home, which is really cool. I’d love to add another one to my collection.
“Willow is definitely a massive motivation for me to carry on pushing, pushing me to go on to the Paris Games in 2024.
“And you never know, beyond that. I want her to travel the world. Maybe LA after that. It’d be cool if she can follow me around the world.”
Whitlock, who practised on a home pommel horse in lockdown, was 'gutted' when he heard these Games would be held without fans and in sterile stadiums.
He said: “If that is what it has to be to be safe, then that is the most important thing. We have to knuckle down more as a team, try to create that atmosphere — as much as we can with a four-man team.
“That’s the job to do. We won’t get that atmosphere like a normal Olympics. We have to boost each other as much as possible.”
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