Max Whitlock: Olympic champion felt like a ‘complete failure’ after thinking about retirement

Max Whitlock: Olympic champion felt like a ‘complete failure’ after thinking about retirement

Max Whitlock
Max Whitlock could go down in history at the Paris Olympics

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Max Whitlock says he “felt like a complete failure” when he considered stepping away from the sport after the Tokyo Games.

He said his accolades “didn’t matter” as he didn’t see a clear path for his future.

With his goal-oriented and driven mindset, the 29-year-old said he was “struggling” with his mental health.

“I never thought in a million years that I would want to,” he said.

Whitlock won two gold medals in Tokyo 2021 to add to the gold and bronze he won at the Rio 2016 Games and two bronzes at London 2012. His other honors include four gold medals at the Championships Europe, four Commonwealth Games gold medals and three World Championship gold medals.

After some time after Tokyo, the Team GB star decided he was done with the sport.

But after talking about his issues and reflecting on the example he wanted to set for his three-year-old daughter Willow, Whitlock confirmed he is now aiming for the Paris Games in 2024.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: “As a gymnast throughout my career I have always looked forward and never looked back.

“[My results] were kind of amazing, but it didn’t matter because I was looking at my next target.

“Moving forward is what counted, and that’s [when] I felt like a complete failure because I couldn’t see that clearly.”

Whitlock is now back in training after taking a break from the sport after Tokyo, missing the 2022 Commonwealth Games – where he worked as a BBC pundit – and next month’s World Championships in Liverpool.

“It’s important to talk to people”

Whitlock said he started to feel “completely lost” after the Tokyo Olympics.

“I fell into a place, into this rut ​​where I just lost all motivation for everything,” he said. “I felt lethargic every day. I was in this place where I just didn’t want to do anything.

“I even took a blood test because I felt really bad every day. The blood test came back and I was fine. I think that’s what proved to me that it was all in my head .”

He remembers sitting at home, getting flustered talking to his wife Leah and feeling like a “total waste of space”. Whitlock added while he couldn’t “understand” how he felt, Leah and the others around him were worried.

“A lot of people are saying it, talking to people, letting people know, it helps,” he said. “But I think I’ve never been that person. I’ve always been the person who sticks with it and carries on. I’ve done [that for my] his whole career of almost putting on a mask.

“I think when I started talking to Leah or started talking more to my parents and the people around me, I started to realize how I felt.”

“It would have been to stop, not to retire”

After Tokyo, Whitlock said he was “adamant” he was ending his career as a gymnast.

But he said it was the idea of ​​explaining the decision to his daughter Willow in the future that made him decide to go ahead.

“That wouldn’t be retiring,” he said. “It won’t just be stopping for a reason like that. It would be stopping…

“[Willow] would obviously be up to what I do. Ten to 20 years later, if I explained my career to Willow and told her that I did this and that and quit after Tokyo, I think her next question would probably be why did you quit? And I wouldn’t want it to be because I’m afraid of failing in Paris.”

Max Whitlock with his daughter Willow
Max Whitlock says his daughter Willow gives him a new perspective

A return to the gym

Whitlock is aiming for more success – and history – at the 2024 Paris Games. If he can win a medal on pommel horse, he will become the first gymnast to do so in four consecutive Olympics on the same apparatus.

He said returning to training had been “difficult” after a year away and he was aware of the challenge he faced.

“Any time off takes you a very, very long time to come back,” he said. “But I’m excited, like I’m really excited for the challenge. I feel almost refreshed. I feel like I’ve reset almost everything and I think the fear of failing is gone.

“The nerves, for now, are gone. The weight on my shoulders is gone, I think because I put myself in the mindset that I’m done coming back.

“I have new reasons. I’m doing it for Willow. I would like everyone to come to Paris and have the opportunity to watch in Paris.

“To see where I can go, to see if I can write this history, if I can make a fourth Olympics. But just to almost prove to myself that I can do it and also to show a message to Willow to never give up.

“I think that’s what helped me move forward without this fear of failure which is powerful. If I had continued like this, there would have been a point where everything fell apart and fell apart. badly collapsed.”

Help others

One of Whitlock’s goals now is to help other athletes feel the same way he does.

“It’s a huge impact on me,” he said. “Huge. Couldn’t believe it. Now I feel like I’ve almost come out the other side and seeing the benefits of even going through this step.

“I would like to help athletes because it’s so common. I would like to help people in general just going through something like that. I would like to see if there are ways to help people in this. because from myself , i struggled i think people [would] never think i would get through this feeling.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.