A NEW personal best on the pommel horse was the highlight for Max Whitlock as he successfully defended his English Championship title in Wigan.
The South Essex Gymnastics Club star scored 16.10 on his specialist apparatus on his way to a total score of 88.65 to win the first domestic competition of the year at the Robin Park Sports Centre.
The 21-year-old showcased several new routines and picked up wins on the floor and pommel horse, and silver on parallel bars as he claimed overall victory.
But his pommel display was the highlight – especially as it relegated returning Louis Smith into second-place (15.7) on the apparatus he has become world famous on.
It underlined Whitlock’s status as the country’s leading gymnast as he finished comfortably clear of runner-up Kristian Thomas (87.950) and bronze-medallist Sam Oldham (84.900).
And there were also fine top 10 showings for South Essex from Jay Thompson (fourth, 83.900), Reiss Beckford (fifth, 83.850) and Anthony Wise (ninth, 82.800).
South Essex’s Brinn Bevan also underlined his emerging talent by claiming the English Championships under-17 title with a score of 83.500, while also trialling some new routines.
Bevan took gold on the floor and high bar, silver on rings and bronze on parallel bars.
In the junior boys’ section, Hayden Skinner finished in a very creditable seventh (73.467) and Douglas Turnball was 21st (67.434).
And Freya Ansell-Jones continued to fly the flag for the club’s emerging girls’ section with a 39th placed showing (29.050) in the junior girls’ section.
In the boys’ section for South Essex, Luke Morrison (67.050) was 15th, Jospeh Sawyer (65.950) was 21st, and Nathan Adams (62.000) was equal 34th.
The English Championships were a trial event for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and all of the South Essex gymnasts will look to further strengthen their claims for selection at the British Championships in Liverpool at the end of March.