SOUTH ESSEX chairman Roy Short has spoken of his immense pride at seeing years of hard work for club hero Max Whitlock and his coach Scott Hann come to fruition with a historic bronze medal at Rio 2016.
The nation was gripped as Whitlock put together six brilliant routines on live TV to take his place on the Olympic podium after a fiercely contested men’s all-around final on Tuesday night.
The 23-year-old from Basildon – accompanied by his club and Team GB coach Hann in the arena – scored 90.641 for third place behind his idol and Japanese legend Kohei Uchimura who took gold with 92.365, and Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev who won silver with 92.266.
It was Great Britain’s first Olympic gymnastics all-around medal for 108 years.
And Short, who has watched SEGC Director of Coaching Hann mould Whitlock into a world-class performer during the club’s time at Cranes Farm Road and the Basildon Sporting Village, said: “I’m just so proud to be associated with Max and Scott and to do my little bit behind the scenes to help them be a success.
“I watched the final at home and I must have held my breath for the last half-an-hour of the competition!
“I sent Scott a text in the early hours of the morning and he said he was over the moon and told me I had played my part, which was a very nice thing for him to say.
“And I am so pleased for Scott because I know how worried he gets before these big competitions and you can see how much it means to him when the cameras catch shots of him in the background.
“But I told him he has done everything he possibly can for Max and all our gymnasts over the past four years, and for many years before that, and that he should enjoy this moment – because he’s earned it.”
Team GB’s Nile Wilson, 20, also produced a stunning display in the all-around final to finish eighth.
And South Essex’s Brinn Bevan, who made his Olympic debut for Team GB in Brazil after an incredible recovery from a broken leg in November, has also had a week to remember.
The 19-year-old from Thundersley was part of the British team which just missed out on a medal when they finished fourth on Monday (August 8), a final watched by an excited crowd on a big screen at the Basildon Sporting Village (pictured below).
Short said: “For Brinn to even be there after breaking his leg in November is unbelievable really and just shows what a determined competitor he is.
“It was a shame to see him just miss out on a medal with the team but I’m sure Brinn has at least a couple of more Olympics in him.”
Bevan’s mum Paula, a member of South Essex’s office team, Whitlock’s fiancee Leah Hickton, the club’s Head of Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, and Jamie Leigh-Hann, Scott’s wife and SEGC’s Head of Pre-School, are among the family and friends who have travelled to Rio to cheer the duo on.
And back at the popular Essex-based gymnastics club, coaches, staff and gymnasts have been inundated with interview requests from local and national media all week.
A group of SEGC staff (pictured below) also got together to record a special good luck message for Whitlock, who is next in action in the floor and pommel finals at 6pm on Sunday (August 14) – and in with a medal chance in both.
The BBC and ITV crews were in again on Thursday morning and were treated to a session of the club’s Pre-School Class in action in the main gymnasium.
And Short says South Essex Gymnastics Club is ready for another huge spike in interest – as it got after Whitlock won two bronze medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
He added: “I’m sure the phones have already started ringing at the club’s office and it will be a busy time again.
“I’ve already had nieces and nephews calling me and wanting to come and get involved in gymnastics.
“And that’s how it all starts – one of our young new gymnasts could be the next Max Whitlock – a future Olympic medallist. That’s what our club and its coaches can deliver for those with special talents.”