Good luck messages inspire gymnasts into men's team final

Max Whitlock is revelling in his role as the father figure of Team GB's young gymnastics team - even taking charge of cutting their hair.

The double Olympic champion shared a sweet video message from his two-year old daughter Willow on social media as he started his defence at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo.

He then headlined a successful day of qualifying as he led his team-mates into the men's team final, while also booking his own spot in the pommel final, the event in which he is a three-time world and Olympic champion from Rio.

Now at his third Games, the 28-year-old is the only member of the squad with Olympic experience - and he's determined to make it count in a team with one eye on the future.

“It's Whitlock Barbers, I think I've had quite a few happy customers and I'm getting better which is good," he said.

“I'm actually loving the role. I don't try to forcefully put myself into it but the boys ask a lot in terms of comparisons from previous Olympic Games compared to this one.

"I'm obviously happy to give that insight and hopefully I can help them in any way possible, and I think it's also a time where I'm learning a lot from them as well.

“The guys were all making their debut today and the girls will tomorrow. I think the excitement's a little bit higher than normal.

“Everyone's got that feeling of 'we're going to become Olympians' and they are massively positive, so it's definitely a nice team to be around.” 

Whitlock’s score of 14.900 saw him qualify for the pommel final in fifth place, while a Team GB quartet that also included James Hall, Joe Fraser and Giarnni Regini-Moran reached the men’s team final in fifth spot after notching 256.594.

The success didn’t stop there as 2019 world champion Fraser reached the parallel bars final thanks to his score of 15.400, while also qualifying fifth for the individual all-around final with 86.298. 

He’ll be joined in the all-around showpiece by Hall – the 12th-best qualifier – while Regini-Moran finished inside the top 24 but due to the rule only allowing two gymnasts per nation in a final, his teammates’ success worked against him.

That trio were all making their Games debut and Fraser’s day was made even more special following a good luck message from his childhood hero and gymnastics legend Louis Smith – Team GB’s four-time Olympic medallist.

“It's incredible, honestly,” beamed Fraser. “I woke up this morning and Louis had sent me a message wishing me luck.

“It is always pretty cool when it's someone that you've looked up to as a young boy, and now they're wishing you luck.

“It filled me with confidence and I just went out there and gave it my all, as I always have and I always will.”

Team GB’s quartet will compete in the men’s team final on Monday, with the individual all-around final on Wednesday and apparatus finals from next Sunday through to Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the four female gymnasts selected to represent Team GB will look to follow in their male counterparts’ footsteps when they compete in qualifying on Sunday.