Max Whitlock takes strength from tough times as he targets more Olympic glory

Max Whitlock insisted his fall in the European Championships this year has “100 per cent” made him stronger as he steps up preparations for Tokyo.

The 28-year-old who trains at Basildon's South Essex Gymnastics Club made a costly error when he fell in qualifying during the European Championships in Switzerland.

Despite not coming away with yet another medal to add to his collection, Whitlock – who has five European golds to his name – has taken the positives from the experience.

“It happens. If you look at my stats, I’ve got some good European results under my belt but I’ve also made mistakes on four out of seven Europeans that I’ve done, and that’s a lot of mistakes,” Whitlock said.

“I think that’s what you’ve got to know as an athlete, as a person, that you’re never going to be perfect every single time, mistakes happen.

“I’ve said it previously and I’ll say it again, every time that I’ve been to a competition and it’s gone perfectly, it’s amazing, and of course you’d want that every single time – but you don’t learn anything.

“The times where I’ve gone and I’ve made mistakes, it’s actually made me better and stronger in the long term.”

Having spent much of the lockdown trying to replicate a competition environment, April’s European Championships was the first competition for more than 18 months in the gymnastics calendar.

Whitlock added: “100 per cent (the error has made me stronger), there’s no doubt about it.

“I’ve learnt a lot from it. If it had gone perfectly, I wouldn’t have made any changes because I’d have thought the whole build-up was right.

“There are a couple of changes that I needed to make and it’s just shown that to me and now it’s learning from that and knowing that I need to put myself in more uncomfortable situations during training in this two-month period.”

Whitlock swept to double gold at the 2016 Olympics but has left the floor routine behind him as he continues to specialise in the pommel heading into Japan.

With the crowd numbers not yet confirmed for events in Tokyo, the British gymnast has been preparing himself in a number of ways for what could be a very different atmosphere to previous games.

“It might be that I put my pommel horse in the middle of an empty hall to try and replicate a change of atmosphere as much as I can,” Whitlock said.

“I’ll just do all those opportunities that I can, I’ll livestream quite a lot of routines so that I get an audience, and the pressure of people watching. Just different environments that are going to help me in those situations,” he said.

“It’s a shame (that the arena will not be full) but we’ll have to thrive off the team atmosphere, more so here, and we’re going to have to try and support each other more than we normally do and just gel and go together as much as we can to give it our best shot.”