Tokyo Olympics: Max Whitlock defends Olympic pommel horse title
Great Britain’s Max Whitlock retained his Olympic title with a sublime performance in Tokyo to win gold in the men’s pommel horse.
The 28-year-old was first up in the event and immediately put pressure on his rivals with a near-perfect routine that earned him a score of 15.583.
Lee Chih-kai of Chinese Taipei was the only competitor to give Whitlock an anxious moment but his score of 15.400 was only good enough for silver. Japan’s Kazuma Kaya took the bronze medal.
Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan had finished joint top of the qualifying standings but came off the apparatus early in his routine and finished seventh.
‘I had to go all out’
Whitlock trained in an empty gym back home to try to recreate the sense of competing at an Olympics without any spectators.
He was not at his best during qualifying, admitting afterwards that nerves played a part, but he put it all together when it counted to win his sixth Olympic medal at his third Games.
“I feel lost for words,” Whitlock told BBC Sport. “I am completely overwhelmed and it feels kind of surreal. I had seen the other sports, gold medals flowing in and I wanted to do the same here. Incredible journey.”
Whitlock admitted the pressure of being the defending champion weighed heavily in the build-up to the Olympics.
“It is a million times harder,” he added. “The pressure was there and I could feel it. Experience pays a lot in situations like this.
“Being first up meant I had to go all out. I couldn’t watch the scores. I had to go all out. That was the biggest routine I had been training for. I couldn’t have done any more.”
Skinner steps up to win Olympic medal
Elsewhere, Team USA’s MyKayla Skinner made the most of the chance given to her as a replacement for Simone Biles by taking silver in the women’s vault.
Four-time Olympic champion Biles withdrew from the vault, and four other gymnastics events, to focus on her mental health.
That led to Skinner, who had been preparing to head home, getting the opportunity to realize her dream of winning an Olympic medal.
She grasped it with both hands, scoring 14.916 to finish behind Brazilian gold medallist Rebeca Andrade, with Yeo Seo-Jeong of South Korea taking the bronze.
Meanwhile, Artem Dolgopyat won Israel’s first Olympics gymnastics title by taking gold in the men’s floor exercise.
Rayderley Zapata of Spain finished second and China’s Xiao Ruoteng took the bronze.
Russian Nikita Nagornyy opened the final with his new triple back pike but stumbled out of bounds and in the end finished with the seventh-best score.
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