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Max Whitlock: "Everyone wanted a photo with Usain Bolt - I felt sorry for him"

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Fresh from his double Olympic gold in Rio, Britain’s latest sporting superstar talks medals, McDonald’s and the Murrays

What was the strangest moment over in Rio?
Stood on the podium and winning my gold medal on the floor. That was my first floor final that I landed any medals so I was just startled, and it was just a massive shock to me and to my coach who was on the floor with me as well. It was so unexpected to get a gold medal really.
 
Did that win therefore give you a bit of a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality in the pommel horse final as you already had a gold? 
It played a part, slightly. The pommel horse has always been my main focus in competition, so whatever I have done on floor I would still have pressure on me. It helped in a very small way, I think to help me to relax and think I’ve got one in the bag.

Much has been made about teammate Louis Smith’s profanity caught on camera and behaviour following your win. How aware were you of his demeanour when the results came in?
I wasn’t aware. I knew that it was tough for him. I went over and shared a congratulations with him and he stood up. But I think when it hit home of what we have actually just done for our sport, it was actually pretty good. You know one and two in the world championships last year and one and two in the Olympics this year is pretty crazy. So the consistency is there. We were obviously close rivals but also good team mates at the same time.

Would your rivalry stop you going for a pint with him?
Not really, it is still friendly because it is such a respectable sport. People respect how hard people work and to get to where they are. My outlook is whoever wins on the day has done the better job, and that is just the way that it is. You know, I will try again next year.

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What was Rio really like? Did you overhear any swimmers worrying about green swimming pools?
To be honest it was fine. It wasn’t as good as London in terms of organisation obviously, but I think that London was an exception. But Rio was brilliant, the whole experience was just amazing. As an athlete the village was great. A lovely atmosphere.

By the looks of the Usain Bolt clubbing photos, fun was had…
It was like a holiday of sorts. Especially with our Team GB block. We got to stay there for about five days after the Games ended, so it was quite nice to be with the boys.

Make any good friends from other disciplines?
The hockey players were always up for a good laugh. We also had a weightlifter who was sharing our apartment with, Sonny Webster, so we got on with him a lot. He made me interested in weightlifting. I had never watched it before but I’m a big fan now. Andy Murray would be hanging around our block too, so I got to spend a bit of time with him and his brother Jamie too.
 
How was Andy and what did you bond over?
It was just his interest in gymnastics and my interest in tennis, and it was crazy to see him and his brother Jamie, who are so, so busy, coming in to have a bit of a rest between competition. One minute they'd be with you, the next they'd be off to do photo shoots and other things. 

Get to meet any other sporting giants?
I saw Usain Bolt in the dinner hall but I didn’t want to go up to him because there were already people going up to him, and as soon as he took one photo, everyone wanted a selfie. I felt a bit bad for him.

Would you like that level of fame?
It has its plus sides, but not perhaps to that extent.

Bolt’s a big fan of McNuggets. Did you not catch him at the on-site McDonald’s?
I believe he does like them. Sadly I didn’t see him in there. Obviously, as Team GB athletes, we were not eating there before competition, but afterwards it was a pretty busy place to be.
 
Being based in Essex, would you like to appear in TOWIE?
[laughs] I have never been asked that before. Hmm, how to answer…Not at the moment as my focus is still on training. I have a lot more to learn and come next year I will be back straight.

Any tips if you want to get involved for someone starting out in gymnastics?
For starters, it is a lot easier now, because a lot more places are popping up. The popularity has gone through the roof. I’d say do your research and go to a gym club. I started when I was seven but you can do it at any age, but mastering it takes a long time. Once you can it's a good feeling, as you can do something that not many other people can do.
 
Ever get a bad injury on the pommel horse – and by ‘bad injury’ we mean smack your nether regions?
No, actually, I’m lucky! Injuries come with any sport. I had back problems and wrist problems, but it is all so normal and people don’t seem to get that. Especially in gymnastics where impact is so high.

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Any tips for keeping a trim figure?
Supplements are good if you’re doing a lot of exercise. The benefits are that you can get especially with aid and recovery. I use Recovery Plus Elite gels. Another is getting protein in quickly which helps your muscles repair. 

Are there are unassuming substances that you can’t have? 
Yeah, there are a lot of things, like over the counter items, we can't have. There are certain types of Lemsip that I can’t have. But I just try to keep it safe and I just take supplements.

Giving up Lemsip for two Olympic golds - probably a fair deal.
Exactly.

Do you think the news of Russian Paralympians being banned was harsh?
I have stayed out of it and I don’t really know too much about it, but obviously the Russians were allowed in the recent Olympics. I’m sure the body are doing all they can – even I can get tested anytime and anyplace. You do all you can to keep the athletes clean, they will do that even more so now.

Max Whitlock is an ambassador for Myprotein.

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