Bronze medallist Max Whitlock has become an overnight heart-throb after helping Team GB to win the first Olympic medal for British male gymnasts in a century.
Whitlock, 19, and his team-mates won bronze last night at North Greenwich Arena, and the “medal miracle” saw Twitter flooded with messages from fans both male and female, calling him “gorgeous”, “cute” and “hot”.
His girlfriend Leah Hickton, 20, from Basildon, spoke of her pride today, saying: “He’s always been popular with the girls — and the men — and they often write to him on Twitter. It’s brilliant, as it’s about time he got some attention for all the effort he puts in.
“I don’t get jealous as Max is so sweet and always makes time for me and my family. He came down and saw us after winning his medal yesterday.”
Whitlock, from Hemel Hempstead, took the first British men’s gymnastics team medal since 1912 alongside Louis Smith, 23, Sam Oldham, 19, Daniel Purvis, 21, and Kristian Thomas, 23. They were in second place after the final round but a successful appeal by the Japanese team saw them relegated from silver to bronze.
“It was really nail-biting but once we knew they’d won a medal the crowd went insane,” said Miss Hickton. “I was so proud of Max. I ran to the front to make sure he knew I was there cheering him on and he gave me a wave.”
The couple have been together five years, after meeting as young members of South Essex Gymnastics Club. Miss Hickton has since moved into coaching and graduated with a First in PE and sport studies at Greenwich University this summer. She added: “Max arranged for a bouquet and card to be delivered when I got my results even though he was at the Olympics. He always calls before I go to bed and makes time for me between training.”
Whitlock’s parents Madeleine and Brian were in the arena to cheer on their son, who has been training since the age of seven. At the family home today, Mrs Whitlock said: “I’m so proud of him. All those years of hard work have been worth it.”
After posting a picture of his medal on Twitter today, Whitlock said: “We had no expectations of getting a medal. We wanted to get out there and have fun, and we did.
“First of all we thought we had a silver medal — but silver or bronze, it doesn’t matter really. We made history.”
Whitlock’s coach Scott Hann, 32, who is Miss Hickton’s brother-in-law, said: “The aim was always just to make the final and everything else would be a bonus. To win a medal was absolutely incredible. I saw Max after and he had tears in his eyes — it was a really emotional day.”