Defending Olympic champion Max Whitlock was cheered on by daughter Willow today as he negotiated the men’s gymnastics qualification process.
The five-time Olympic medallist, 28, started the defence of his titles in the men’s qualification round at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre at the Games in Tokyo.
Cheering from home
Whitlock’s daughter Willow wished her dad and Team GB good luck in an adorable home video recorded by his wife Leah at their family home in Essex ahead of the qualification rounds on Saturday (24 July) morning.
The 28-year-old, who won two gold medals and a bronze at the last Olympics in Rio 2016, plus two bronzes at London 2012, shared the cute clip on his social media pages.
The qualification event saw Whitlock place third in the standings with a score of 14.9, guaranteeing him a place for the individual pommel horse final.
He placed just behind Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan, whose morning score of 15.266 led the field with one further qualifying rotation still to go.
McClenaghan pipped Whitlock to gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
The three-time Olympian will be keen to defend his Olympic pommel horse title, but admitted the nerves were inescapable after five years of hard work, which have world titles and some major disappointments along the way.
He said: “I can say on behalf of every gymnast that qualification is the hardest and most nerve-racking thing ever, because everything rides on it.
“If you muck things up, that’s your Olympics done, and if you don’t you can go on and have more opportunities to compete in that arena. We all felt that.
“It was a bit quieter at breakfast this morning and you could feel that it was competition day. But we’ve come out here and I feel like we’ve delivered.
“After everything we’ve been through, to come out and do what we’ve done, we should be really pleased.”
Idol Kohei Uchimura crashes out
Whitlock’s gymnastics’ idol Kohei Uchimura crashed out of the competition after falling from the horizontal bar midway through the qualification process.
The Japanese great came into his home Olympics as a double defending all-around champion and was hoping to secure another gold before retiring.
The 32-year-old has long served as an inspiration for Whitlock, who had initially hoped to emulate his success as an all-around gymnast, before focusing on excelling on his favourite apparatus.
He said: “I don’t usually watch the other gymnasts but I couldn’t really not notice Kohei on the high bar.
“It’s a huge shame for him in his home country, especially because in the warm-up gym he has been looking amazing.
“It is so difficult coming out to do just one piece, and I’ve only just begun to realise that over the years as I’ve become more of a specialist myself.”
Whitlock, who also competed on high bar and parallel bars to ensure the four-man GB team, also comprising Joe Fraser, James Hall and Giarni Regini-Moran, safely qualified for the men’s team final.
This article orignally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.