SOUTH ESSEX’S head coach Scott Hann says work has already started in earnest to make 2014 a brilliant year for the club’s top five gymnasts at competitions worldwide.
Seniors Max Whitlock, Reiss Beckford and Anthony Wise, and juniors Brinn Bevan and Jay Thompson, have all begun to focus on sealing their places in Great Britain’s five-man team for the European Championships in Bulgaria in May.
Key to their hopes will be good performances at the English Championships in Wigan in mid-March, and at the British Championships in Liverpool a week later, when Whitlock will defend his title.
“Those two competitions will be vital to getting our very busy year off to the best possible start,” said Hann.
“Good performances there will go a long way to securing a place for the Europeans, although in-house training events at Lilleshall and previous results will also be taken into account.
“All five of them are at slightly different stages. Max’s pedigree means he’s now in a very strong position to make the Europeans, and Reiss has a very good chance, as always.
“A lot will depend on the balance of the team. Reiss is particularly strong on the rings and if that is what the team needs, that will help his cause.
“Anthony has only just stepped up from the juniors so for him, at the moment, the main thing is to just keep developing with a target of 2016 and beyond.
“Jay and Brinn – along with Nile Wilson – are the top juniors in the county so they are in a good position for the European Championships. Jay will also make the step up to the senior ranks this year.
“Britain will be going for their fifth consecutive win at the Europeans, although they will face tough competition from the Russians.
“And it is an important competition for us because it will act as a qualifier for this year’s Youth Olympic Games in China.
“So the European Championships is exciting for us as a club for lots of reasons and we have started to focus on what we need to do to make it a success.”
Hann says his group are currently working on stamina and fitness at their Basildon Sporting Village base and will then move on to routines and dismount work before really focussing in on achieving clean routines in the fortnight before the English Championships, which will run march 14-16.
And once the cycle to compete at the European Championships in Sofia between May 12-18 is completed, Whitlock and Beckford will turn their attention to the eagerly anticipated home Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.
Both won breakthrough senior medals at the last Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, and Hann admits it has a special significance for them.
He said: “The Commonwealths are not as big a competition as something like the Olympics, of course, but with it being in Glasgow this year it will be very high profile and it would be an opportunity for Max and Reiss to showcase their skills. They are both really excited about it.
“Once again Max is likely to be in a strong position to go. Reiss will also have a very good chance because in will be an English team and that means he won’t be up against the two Dans (Purvis and Keatings) because they are Scottish.
“But it won’t be a formality for anyone because all of our top gymnasts will want to be at a home Games, so we’ll be working as hard as we can to get there.”