Max Whitlock: Men’s gymnastics participation ‘crossing the roof’ due to UK success

Max Whitlock: Men's gymnastics participation 'crossing the roof' due to UK success

Max Whitlock believes that men’s participation in gymnastics has “crossed the line” as a direct result of the achievements of medalists over the past decade.

Six-time Olympic medalist was joined by English Commonwealth Games champions Courtney Tulloch and Georgia May Fenton on Friday as they surprised a room full of young children at their first club, South Essex Gymnastics.

Speaking from the stadium, Whitlock said the sport was “thriving” and claimed the increase in men’s participation was due to the great victories of British men’s teams.

“It is clear that there are still more girls doing (gymnastics) in the general scheme of things than boys at the moment, but the participation of boys has crossed the line,” he told the Palestinian News Agency.

“I think it’s just because of the results. On the men’s side, we’ve had some good results over the last 10 years and I think that’s had a huge impact.

“It’s amazing to be part of a completely thriving sport.”

Whitlock admitted that the sport had changed since he started competing and said this was mainly due to the success of the London Olympics in 2012.

“I think since London 2012 we have really wanted to take on that role in inspiring the next generation,” Whitlock said.

“The impact of London 2012 on the nation and the sport as a whole, and especially gymnastics, has been insane.

“The sport is not the same when I started. It is on a completely different level now, which is amazing.

“One of my favorite comments I get is when people come up and tell me their son or daughter joined gymnastics because they’ve seen me and it’s crazy to think that I can make that effect just by doing something I love.”

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Max Whitlock joined English gymnasts Courtney Tulloch and Georgia May Fenton in a surprise room full of young children at their first club, South Essex Gymnastics Club. (shovel)

Another factor in the sport’s increasing popularity, especially among boys, is the access of young people to sports stars via social media, Whitlock said.

“Social media has its downsides of course, but it also has big positives,” Whitlock said.

“Being able to see the flight, but actually being able to text people, anyone of any level (athlete), to be able to send a message and they can reply back to you.

“It’s crazy about the impact it can have on young children – to get a few words of encouragement from your idol, it’s incredible to have that access.”

Tulloch echoed the views of Whitlock, who won two gold medals during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

“Through social media, I feel it has helped tremendously,” Tulloch told PA.

“I think before you (gymnasts) just watched on TV and thought, ‘I’ll never be able to do that,’ but now you can follow us on social media and see that we’re just normal people.

“We’re like you, we started like you, if you’re going to get into sports and that helps.

“Clips showing Twitter actions and how much engagement and interaction they get will also help people exercise and grow our profiles, helping everyone at the end of the day.”

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