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The story of Max Whitlock's incredible rise to becoming a double Olympic champion

Max Whitlock is still coming to terms with the magnitude of his achievement. Credit: PA

It's been an incredible week for Essex gymnast Max Whitlock who has booked himself in the history books by becoming a double Olympic champion.

Here's a look at how he got there and the journey he has been on to get to this point.

  • The early years
Whitlock was a talented gymnast from a young age. Credit: PA

Whitlock grew up in Hemel Hempstead and trained at the Sapphire School of Gymnastics from the age of six.

He then moved to the South Essex Gymnastics Club in Basildon where he first met his coach Scott Hann.

The rest is history, with the pair enjoying some incredible success together ever since.

Hann has been like a father figure for Whitlock and his guidance has played a huge part in getting him to where he is today.

Speaking to The Guardian in a recent interview, Hann talked about how quiet Whitlock was when he was younger.

Whitlock has been with girlfriend Leah Hickton since the age of 14. Credit: PA

"He was a lovely kid, but wouldn’t say boo to a goose,” he said.

“I remember taking him away on trips and I’d have to go into the shops and order his sweets for him because he was too shy to speak to the shopkeeper.”

It was also in Whitlock's teenage years that he met his current girlfriend Leah Hickton who he recently proposed to.

  • London 2012
Whitlock won two bronze medals at London 2012. Credit: PA

Whitlock first announced himself on the world stage when he won bronze in the men's pommel horse final in London.

As a fresh-faced 19-year-old, no one had even considered that Whitlock would be a threat but he surprised everyone to claim a medal in only his second international competition.

That night he finished behind Peterborough's Louis Smith in the first of many battles between the pair.

Whitlock was part of the bronze-winning British team. Credit: PA

It wasn't his only success in London either as he helped the men claim a historic bronze in the team final.

Despite his success, Whitlock went back to the gym almost immediately and set his sights on going even further in Rio.

  • Success on the world stage
Whitlock cleaned up at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Credit: PA

Now considered as one of the hottest prospects in gymnastics, Whitlock lived up the hype by cleaning up at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

He picked up three golds in the team, all-around and floor events as well as taking silver in the pommel.

He then made history in the same city a year later as he became the first British gymnast to win a gold in the World Championships as he triumphed in the pommel.

ITV News Anglia was there as he was given a heroes welcome on his return home to the South Essex Gymnastics Club.

Whitlock poses with his gold World Championship medal in Basildon. Credit: PA

Speaking to us, he made a big point of stressing that he would never forget his roots.

"To make history in that way is unbelievable and it's been a long journey," he said.

"The people supporting me have helped me get to where I am. The one thing I absolutely love is coming back to my club."

  • Olympic glory
Whitlock stole the show in Rio. Credit: PA

Although he would never publicly admit it, Whitlock always had his eye on winning gold in Rio.

However, even he must be taken aback by the success he's had.

To win one gold would have been a stunning achievement in itself considering that Whitlock competes for a nation that has never even got close to such a feat.

But to win two is remarkable.

9
How many gold medals Whitlock has won in major international competitions.
Whitlock's success could inspire British gymnasts of the future. Credit: PA

The medals are justification for all the long hours he has spent in the gym trying to achieve his dream and his efforts will surely inspire a future generation.

The worrying thing for his rivals is that Whitlock is still only 23, and with his dedication and determination showing no signs of wavering, he could be at the top of the tree for years to come.

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