Whit­lock re­tains world ti­tle to make his­tory

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Golf - By Mark Stan­i­forth in Mon­treal

Max Whit­lock rose to the oc­ca­sion 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 scored a huge 15.441 points, ex­ceed­ing his qual­i­fi­ca­tion score of 15.300, and eas­ily beat­ing Rus­sia’s David Belyavskiy into sil­ver.

Whit­lock, 24, had taken a gam­ble by adding an ex­tra el­e­ment for the eight­man fi­nal, de­spite a bout of nerves which ended his hopes of reach­ing the floor fi­nal 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.

“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 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.

He 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 still wasn’t a per­fect rou­tine. I have got to go away and work on some big­ger up­grades. But I’m so happy.”

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.

He was un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally ner­vous in qual­i­fy­ing and con­ceded that was down to his break from the sport af­ter Rio, which had left him rac­ing against time to nail the up­grades he needed to keep one step ahead of his ri­vals.

It was one of the rea­sons why Whit­lock 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 GB hero Louis Smith.

As it turned out, even Whit­lock’s qual­i­fi­ca­tion score would have been enough to com­fort­ably se­cure a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive gold.

Great Bri­tain team-mate Court­ney Tul­loch fin­ished a dis­ap­point­ing eighth and last in the men’s ring fi­nal. But there will be hopes of a sec­ond medal for Bri­tain when Clau­dia Fra­ga­pane goes in the women’s floor fi­nal to­day. The in­jury-en­forced with­drawal of Amer­i­can Ra­gan Smith now means Frag­pane will be­gin the fi­nal with the third-best qual­i­fy­ing score.

Hors­ing around: Max Whit­lock shows his skills dur­ing the men’s pom­mel fi­nal in Mon­treal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.