Whitlock back on top with European gold

Double Olympic champion Max Whitlock believes he has learned to cope with the burden of expectation after becoming a four-time European champion with pommel horse gold at the European Gymnastics Championships.

Whitlock blew away the competition in Szczecin, Poland to claim a first gold medal at European level since 2014, while Ellie Downie added a vault bronze to her all-around silver from earlier in the Championship and is now a ten-time European medallist.

Having topped the pommel horse standings in qualification, Whitlock took his performance up a level in the final and scored an unbeatable 15.533 points to seal a first major title since 2017, after a string of silvers last year.

It was the 26-year-old’s second European pommel title after he also reigned supreme in Sofia in 2014 and worryingly for his opponents, the five-time Olympic medallist insists there is still more to come.

“I’m really happy, the build-up has been a big learning curve for me, there’s been a lot of pressure and expectation put on me which I’ve had to learn how to cope with,” said Whitlock.

“This gives me a huge confidence boost. I always said last year that I was gaining experience and building my routine so to now produce a score like that and win gold feels really good.

“I hit my target score which feels great and I have a bit more to add in so I’m really comfortable with where I’m at right now.”

Meanwhile, Downie leaves Szczecin with two medals added to her sizable European haul after all-around silver was followed by bronze in the vault just before Whitlock’s triumph.

She produced two well-executed vaults to score 14.400 and 14.233 and claim third spot, with Maria Paseka of Russia securing gold, leaving the 19-year-old content with her final position.

“I’m really happy with the bronze,” explained Downie. “I had lower start values that some of the other gymnasts, so bronze feels about right.

“I was happy with my performance and to get another European medal feels really good. It’s been a great championship for me overall, I definitely feel like I’m back at the level I want to be.”

Elsewhere, Brinn Bevan finished sixth in the pommel final behind Whitlock and Courtney Tulloch came fifth on the rings – although both will compete in further finals on Sunday, the last day of the Championships.