Gymnastics-British great Whitlock heads to final Games, Downie returns


FILE PHOTO: Gymnastics - 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships - Sportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium - October 7, 2023 Britain's Max Whitlock reacts after his routine on the pommel horse during the men's apparatus finals REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's greatest gymnast Max Whitlock said he was looking forward to his fourth and final Games with nothing to lose after being named in a 13-strong team for Paris on Thursday.

The 31-year-old triple Olympic champion won gold in pommel horse at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 and Tokyo 2020 and also floor gold in Rio.

Whitlock has three Olympic bronzes in his collection as well -- all-around in Rio, and team and pommel from London 2012 -- and took an 18-month break after Tokyo.

He could now become the first gymnast to win medals on the same apparatus at four successive Games.

"This Olympics is even more crazy for me because it’s going be my last one," said Whitlock. "I am excited to trust the process and give it everything I’ve got as there’s nothing to lose at this stage.

"My family are coming out to Paris, which I’m so grateful for. This is the first Olympic Games where my daughter can watch me compete.

"I am excited for her to experience the Games, especially now she’s taken up gymnastics herself, it’s going to be really special."

Whitlock will be joined by Joe Fraser, returning for his second successive Games, as well as debutants Jake Jarman, Harry Hepworth and Luke Whitehouse.

Jarman is the reigning world champion on vault and Fraser was 2019 world champion on parallel bars.

Alice Kinsella, bronze medallist in Tokyo, leads the women's artistic team with Becky Downie, 32, competing in her third Games after debuting in Beijing 2008 and debutants Georgia-Mae Fenton, Ruby Evans and Abi Martin.

Downie missed out on 2020 selection after the sudden death of her brother Josh.

She and her now-retired younger sister Ellie had spoken out about the emotional scars left by their careers and said abusive behaviour in gymnastics training had become "ingrained" and "completely normalised".

A damning 2022 Whyte Review, commissioned by UK and Sport England, uncovered a culture of abuse in the sport and led to safeguarding measures being introduced.

Double Olympic medallist and world champion Bryony Page, 33, will be competing in trampoline.

Tokyo 2020 artistic team bronze medallists and twin sisters Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova both miss out after being sidelined by injury.

The artistic gymnastics competition takes place between July 27-Aug. 5.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)

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