Retired gymnast Beth Tweddle has backed double Olympic champion Max Whitlock to repeat his historic performance in Rio as the countdown to Tokyo 2020 draws ever nearer, writes Andy Baber.
Whitlock achieved Britain’s first-ever Olympic gymnastics gold with victory in the men’s floor before topping the podium once again in the pommel horse ahead of team-mate Louis Smith.
His medals contributed to Team GB’s gymnasts coming home with seven medals in total across all three disciplines, making it their most successful haul at a Games to date.
And as someone who knows a thing or two about dealing with pressure at an Olympics, London 2012 bronze medallist Tweddle believes Whitlock can handle the weight of expectation on him.
“The main focus is about getting that qualification for everyone for Tokyo 2020 but there are so many different names in the mix,” said Tweddle.
“That’s the difference within gymnastics now, you’re not relying on one or two people, but obviously Max Whitlock picking up double Olympic gold last time, he’s in good form.
“He’s obviously hoping to be out there in Tokyo and on the women’s side it’s great to see Ellie Downie back after a couple of years of injuries, so there are quite a few names.
“It’s hard to pick on just one or two people but I think Max thrives under the pressure. He has a game plan, he knows what he’s doing with his coach and he’s worked through this cycle.
“Straight after Rio he had a bit of time off but he’s gradually built his routines back up and he’s had a really good year so we’ll see what happens at the World Championships and then on to Tokyo.”
Having competed at three consecutive Olympics herself, Tweddle also warned those gunning for Tokyo to be wary about allowing the Games to consume all of their thoughts.
“It’s amazing every four years being able to watch the Olympics,” she said. “Now I’m not competing you get to appreciate all the other sports and really get involved in everything.
“It is difficult not to let the Olympic become all consuming, I was lucky with my coach as she always tried to - not dull down the Olympics but try to not make it such a big thing.
“If you make it such a big thing that’s when the pressure starts to kick in so you have to go into it with the mindset that’s it just another competition but that is difficult to do.”
Tweddle announced her retirement in 2013 before continuing to show her competitive side in during appearances on Dancing on Ice and The Jump in the following years.
But the three-time world champion, who has just had her first baby with husband Andy Allen, admits that nothing quite compares to the thrill of an Olympic Games.
“I remember going to Athens and just to be a part of Team GB was a huge honour,” she said. “I remember getting all my kit and you can’t put into words how it feels to represent Team GB.
“I was then lucky enough to compete in Beijing and then the home Olympics and I’m probably a little bit biased but London was insane, I have so many special memories.
“Sport does really bring everyone together and the atmosphere that London 2012 created, I remember finishing the Olympics and buying tickets for the Paralympics.
“I wanted to be there as a spectator and experience what everyone else experienced as when you’re competing you’re in a little bubble and just focused on you own sport.”