SOUTH ESSEX STARS TO STAKE CLAIMS FOR COMMONWEALTH SPOTS

SOUTH ESSEX’S head coach Scott Hann says their top five gymnasts are ready to put down an early marker for selection for this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Max Whitlock, Reiss Beckford, Anthony Wise, Jay Thompson and Brinn Bevan will go head-to-head with their top domestic rivals at the English Championships in Wigan this weekend (March 14-16) and at the British Championships in Liverpool at the end of the month (March 28-30).

Whitlock will be defending his all-around titles at both and will also have to test his mettle against his great domestic pommel rival Louis Smith, who announced his return to the sport this year after taking a break following the London 2012 Olympics.

Beckford and Wise will aim to step up their claims for a place in the England team for the home Commonwealth Games, while teenagers Thompson and Bevan will want to prove they can compete with the country’s top gymnasts.

Hann said: “They have all come back after the winter motivated and in good shape.

“The Commonwealths are a big goal this year and everyone will have a chance to stake their claim this month.

“It’s the first competition of the year in Wigan this weekend and the main aim will be for the guys to try out their new elements and come through as clean as possible.

“I think they will all do well and I would like Max to be towards the top of the scoring again – if not top.

“Obviously Louis is back now and he will be hoping to take back his pommel title, but Max has got the bit between his teeth and wants to impress.

“We’ll have to see how it goes. But from seeing Max in training, I hope he can make the gap between him and the rest even bigger this year.”