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“As a Whitlock, we don’t quit.” Olympic gymnast Max Whitlock OBE on building perfection

A driven mindset

Having won two Olympic golds at the Tokyo Games of 2020 (held in 2021 due to Covid), Max Whitlock encountered something new. He found himself struggling to train and focus, unable to explain how he was feeling.

Following Tokyo, having become Britain’s most successful ever Olympic gymnast, he took a prolonged break from the sport he loved. During his time away, Max candidly opened up about the value of looking after your mental health – a process that saw him go on to become a Mental Health UK Ambassador.

“For me, when it comes to my mental health and looking after it during my training – during everything that I do – it’s important for me to keep it balanced. That’s one thing that’s helped me,” he says.

Helping maintain that balance involves having a clear idea of trajectory and goals, he adds.

“Actually, what I’ve learnt is having targets to work for. That makes my mindset really driven and I build energy off of having targets and making progress. For me, if I make a little progress every single day, I feel productive, and that productivity makes me feel good and gives me the energy to want to get up, get going and make more.”


Back for Paris 2024

Focus on mental as well as physical wellbeing has helped bring Max back to the arena for his 2024 shot at another Olympic title. But his medal pursuit is also underpinned by an assertive personal message.

“There’s loads of reasons why I came back to training and competing, and I am now going for my fourth Olympic Games in Paris,” he says. “One of the biggest reasons is because I never want to send a message down to my little girl that if I’d stopped, I might have felt like I quit. She now knows the message that, ‘as a Whitlock, we don’t quit’ – which is an amazing message to send.”

Having won golds for his floor routine and the pommel horse at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Max went on to successfully defend his pommel title in Tokyo. How does he visualise perfection at the pinnacle of a performative sport with so little room for error?

“To be honest I don’t visualise much when it comes to perfection in a routine,” he says. “For me it’s all about the preparation. If the preparation’s going well, that’s how you build perfection.”

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