Max Whitlock (England/Great Britain)

“It’s my dream to get my name in the code of points”

Representing England at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia, double Olympic champion Max Whitlock decided just to compete on his two specialist events, floor and pommel horse. I spoke to him before the competition started. 29 March 2018

There has been some speculation in the Australian press about a fantastic new move you are planning on the pommel horse. Can you tell us about that?
“If we’re talking about the Whitlock, it’s not ready yet, I’m obviously gutted about that, but it’s going to take a long, long time. It’s still my dream to get my name in the code of points and to have the Whitlock in there. But it needs to be fully ready, because you need to perform it at a major championships – but it’s just not ready.

Have you changed your difficulty level since the last world championships?
It’s similar to my last world championships routine, but I’ve got the option of upgrading, from a 6.8 to a 7 start. I’ll decide what I want to do. I want to keep pushing, I want to keep trying to make sure I retain a high start value, because if I do that, the potential is to retain the title, and that’s a huge motivation for me. So I want to go through a clean routine.

The Commonwealth Games sees a variety of smaller nations competing – who do you think are the likely medal contenders?
For the individual pieces you’ve got England and Scotland, who I know are very strong because I train with those guys and I know exactly what they are doing. Then you’ve got Canada, they’re pretty strong, and Australia will be good. There’ll be individuals in other countries that will really try and push through. People that you might not have seen before, or might be trying some big skills and it might pay off. So I’m not too sure, I don’t like to watch too much of what other people are doing. I just try and focus on my job. If I’m happy with what I’m doing, and I’ve pushed it to the limit, then I can’t do anything more. 

Max went on to win gold with the England team and a silver on pommel horse, despite getting the same score as the gold medallist, Rhys McClenaghan of Ireland. The tie-break gave the title to the gymnast with the higher execution score, so Max was bumped down to second place.

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Nile Wilson (England/Great Britain)

“We are creating art with our bodies”

An interview with Nile Wilson just before the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia. 31 March 2018

In January 2013 four junior British male gymnasts travelled to Sydney to compete in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. They were Dominick Cunningham, James Hall, Courtney Tulloch and Nile Wilson. Five years later, all four returned to Australia, representing England at the Commonwealth Games alongside teammate Max Whitlock.
“It’s amazing and really strange as well, that all four of us are here again,” said Nile after training, just before the Games started. “A lot of time and experience has passed since 2013, but it makes it that much more special.”
Five years ago at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival the quartet won the team title and four apparatus titles between them, and they were hoping for a similar medal haul in 2018.
“We’re all excited to do it and we’re 100% definitely going for gold,” said Nile. “We’re in great shape, the team’s really strong. The most important thing is we’re having fun out here, we can soak up the atmosphere and then just do the best gymnastics we can.”
Of the four, 22-year-old Nile has gained the most experience, competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where he won four medals – two gold, a silver and a bronze. Then at the 2016 Rio Olympics, he won the bronze medal on high bar.
Nile’s passion for gymnastics is evident in his You Tube channel, which he has been building for nearly ten years.
“I want to promote this sport, which I think is the best in the world,” he says, “by portraying gymnastics in an entertaining way. I’m a bit of a comedian and I just want my videos to put a smile on people’s faces. I’ve changed many people’s lives and got so many into gymnastics, which is the main reason I do it.”
“Gymnastics is incredible,” he continues. “We are like artists. We are creating art with our bodies and our job is to make it look easy.”
The English men went on to win the Commonwealth Games team title, with Nile then becoming the individual all-around champion – despite a sore hand which meant he had put in virtually no training on pommel horse leading up to the event.