Sports Personality of the Year 2016: Max Whitlock - 75 minutes of history

Sports Personality of the Year 2016: Max Whitlock - 75 minutes of history

The 23-year old won three medals at the Rio Olympics.

Chris Lincoln

No athlete will ever forget their experience in an Olympic Games, yet Great Britain gymnast Max Whitlock will feel his entire career will be defined by one evening on 14th August when he created national history.

A solid start to the year

Whitlock went into the Rio Olympics harbouring high hopes of at least returning with medals in his luggage. A two-time bronze medalist at the London Olympics four years previous and 2015 Pommel Horse World Champion, Whitlock had the pedigree to underpin his supporters' belief.

His form this year was already heading towards a pinnacle, winning the Glasgow World Cup all around discipline in March. The man from Hemel Hempstead was almost unrivalled as he achieved the highest scores of the competition on floor and pommel horse and came second on vault and high bar. 

Creating history

Whitlock was a certainty for the Great Britain Olympic team and he joined an exciting quintet alongside Louis Smith, Nile Wilson, Kristian Thomas and Brinn Bevan. Yet the pressure was on the young side with a lack of medals to the name of Great Britain in gymnastics at the Olympics. However, Whitlock once again showed maturity beyond his years as he produced a consistent display in the all-around event to earn a bronze, Britain's first medal for 108 years in the discipline.

After top-scoring in the pommel horse during the six pieces of apparatus, Whitlock admitted "I wanted to prove myself as an all-rounder and I've done that. I feel I've completed that target now".

The records tumble

That was the ambition for Wednesday but it was not long before Whitlock turned his attentions to the Sunday, a day he will never forget. Some may have seen the men's floor competition as a warm-up for his favoured discipline, the pommel horse, later in the evening.

Yet Whitlock was able to perform an almost faultless routine. Two twisting somersaults, a diagonal flip, three and a half hunch half twist, familiar pommel routine, handstand, backwards two and a half twisting somersault and triple twist propelled him into first place with a score of 15.633.

After entering the floor third on the starting list, Whitlock faced an anxious wait as five men looked to beat his score. Yet the British prodigy had set the bar too high and created history as he won gold, the first of any kind in British gymnastics at the Olympics.

However, Whitlock was fully aware that he could not relax and enjoy the moment, admitting "I knew I had to refocus as I had another job to do".

A night to remember

With teammate Louis Smith leading the way on the pommel horse, Whitlock stepped up knowing that if he beat his score of 15.833 he would be guaranteed another medal with only one more competitor to mount after his routine.

If his floor display was faultless, Whitlock's pommel horse routine was perfection. The heroine not only beat Smith but blasted his score out of the water with an impressive 15.966. The wait in pole position was just as tense, if not as long, before Whitlock created history oncemore. Britain had waited the length of Olympic time for an gymnastic gold medal winner and Whitlock had earned two in the space of 75 minutes.

Eventual silver medalist Smith admitted to possibly struggling to cope with the series of events earlier in the evening more than Whitlock himself. He explained "Max has been an absolute star in this competition. He's been incredible. It's hard to keep composure when a teammate has just won a medal. I just tried to keep focussed".

Whitlock himself could finally afford his emotions to take over as he admitted "I have completely outdone myself", before being reduced to tears as he was awarded his third Olympic medal of the week.

2016 winner?

Whitlock's 2016 has undoubtedly put him amongst the great names of British Olympians. Though he still trails Sir Bradley Wiggins by three medals and Sir Chris Hoy and Jasony Kenny by four golds, no British athlete can lay claim to the phenomenal achievements the gymnast produced in less than two hours of amazing strength, power, flexibility and agility.

Considering the fact that Whitlock is the only British gold medalist in gymnastics, the 23-year old has put himself firmly in the running for Sports Personality of the Year 2016.