Max Whitlock keeps his head down

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Preview Package (PA Wire)
14:57pm, Mon 19 Jul 2021
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Max Whitlock has no intention of emulating his rival Rhys McClenaghan and becoming a social media star as he prepares to bounce into the Olympic Village with his gymnastics team-mates this week.

McClenaghan, who pipped Whitlock to Commonwealth and European golds in 2018, posted a viral tweet on Sunday in which he energetically debunked media rumours concerning the so-called ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds.

The brash Newtownards 21-year-old cuts a contrasting figure to the Briton, and has continued courting his profile at his debut Games by posting a series of popular tweets showing life inside the Village.

Whitlock, in almost complete contrast, prefers to keep fully focused on his task in the build-up to major competitions, seldom referencing any of his rivals by name and purporting never to take an interest in their particular routines.

However as he puts the finishing touches to his quest to hold off the Irishman and claim his second consecutive Olympic pommel crown, Whitlock acknowledged McClenaghan’s status as a bona-fide threat to his dominance of the discipline.

Whitlock joked: “We are heading into the Village tomorrow (Tuesday) and we will see what the cardboard beds are like – I heard Rhys put something up there that was quite good.

European Championships 2018 – Day Eleven (PA Archive)

“He’s more vocal and I like to keep my head down and I don’t go on social media much. I don’t know what routines anybody else is doing and I’m just thinking about my job.

“It’s not a one-on-one situation. We’re all going out there to do as good a job as possible. We respect each other and hopefully everyone can go out there and do an important job.”

Despite both missing out on a medal on their return to competition at the European Championships earlier this year, Whitlock and McClenaghan remain the men to beat on the pommel in Tokyo.

McClenaghan was responding to reports that the beds had been made out of cardboard in order to prevent athletes having sex as a precautionary measure against coronavirus.

But Tokyo officials countered the claim by insisting they had been created out of cardboard purely because it ensured they were 100% recyclable.

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