Max Whitlock has his sights set on gold in Paris

Max Whitlock has his sights set on gold in Paris

Triple Olympic champion Max Whitlock is focused on the destination, not the journey, for the first time ahead of Paris 2024.

The 30-year-old is the most successful British gymnast of all time, boasting three Olympic and three World golds, the most successful pommel horse worker of all time.

But stepping away from the sport post-Tokyo 2020, with no intention to come back, sent the gymnast into a downwards spiral, feeling lost and without purpose.

Now back in the saddle and gearing up for a possible fourth Games in Paris, Whitlock has revealed that he has one thing on his mind in the French capital: a fourth Olympic title.

"I was adamant that I was done with gymnastics after Tokyo," he said, speaking at SportsAid's PE Conference, in partnership with Leap, at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.

"Now coming back, I've given myself that opportunity to make four Olympic Games. A big source of motivation for me is to retain that title.

"I used to avoid thinking about winning medals and just focus on my job but it's actually really difficult to do that so now I'm trying to switch that mindset and use it as a new source of motivation for the first time.

"I wouldn't have come back if I didn't have the potential to win gold."

Ahead of his return to international competition in February 2023, Whitlock spoke publicly for the first time about his recent mental health struggles, revealing that stepping away from gymnastics after his Olympic three-peat left him feeling like 'a waste of space'.

Whitlock is now determined to use his platform to showcase to the younger generation that even when you're supposed to feel on top of the world, it's okay to not be okay.

"People look at me and think that I would never have felt that way after winning Olympic gold, but I did," he said.

"I felt like a waste of space and a failure in that time away from the sport and to get that message across to young children, if they ever feel that way at some point in their lives, they can know that it's okay.

"We're seeing so many statistics about the declining rates of wellbeing in young children which is so heartbreaking to see.

"So, if I can help in anyway with that then I'm proud to speak about my struggles."

At his first World Championships back since his break, Whitlock finished fifth in the pommel horse final after a vital mistake cost him top spot.

Admitting that he was 'gutted' about his performance, the Olympian also revealed that his newfound look on life has given him the tools and understanding to fully process his disappointment in a healthy and positive way ahead of a possible golden summer in Paris.

"The World Championships are still very fresh in my mind," he said.

"I just made that one mistake and that's what happened so it's important to me to take this time to reflect.

"Of course, I'm gutted about my individual performance, but these are lessons that I'm still learning on my own journey.

"My process in how I build up to a competition has changed since my break from sport.

"I'm a lot more chilled and a lot more relaxed and I think that's really key to my preparation now.

"But when it doesn't go to plan, I'm still a bit too hard on myself.

"It's important to think about that process through and if I can show young people that not everything always goes to plan and that is okay, then that's always a positive."

Leap, the Active Partnership for Bucks and MK, hosted the PE and School Sport Conference at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. An opportunity for primary and secondary schools to enhance the teaching skills and new opportunities with a host of practical and theory-based workshops.