Gymnastics: Whitlock and Jupp to lead GB challenge

BRITISH champions Max Whitlock and Gabby Jupp will lead the Great Britain’s men’s and women’s squads at next month’s European Championships in Moscow.

Whitlock, who ended fellow Olympic team bronze medallist Daniel Purvis’ three-year reign as British champion in Liverpool last weekend, will head up a six-strong men’s team who will bid to defend their European team title at the event which runs between 17-21 April.

Daniel Keatings, who missed out on a place at London 2012 but impressed with three senior titles at the British Championships, makes his return alongside his fellow Scotland international Purvis, Sam Oldham and British vault and rings champion Theo Seager. The final place in the men’s team is still to be confirmed but it is between Ashley Watson from the City of Leeds club, who was a medallist on parallel bars and high bar at the British Championships, and Reiss Beckford from the South Essex club who finished fifth in the all-around competition.

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Olympians Kristian Thomas and Louis Smith are not included: Thomas has been ruled out for up to three months with a knee problem suffered at the French World Cup event earlier this month and London 2012 pommel horse silver medallist Smith is taking a break from the sport.

The women’s team is unrecognisable from the five who represented GB at last summer’s Olympics and is headed up by 15-year-old Jupp, a rising star and new British all-around, beam and floor champion. The first-year senior is joined by Charlie Fellows, making her European senior debut, 2008 Beijing Olympian and multiple British champion Becky Downie and Ruby Harrold, who took bars bronze at the British Championships.

The women’s gymnasts who represented Team GB at London 2012 have not been included, as Olympic bronze medallist Beth Tweddle is taking a break from the sport along with Imogen Cairns, Jenni Pinches has retired, Rebecca Tunney is recovering from a toe injury and 2012 European beam and floor bronze medallist Hannah Whelan is not in her best form.

British Gymnastics head of performance Tim Jones explained that the focus would fall on giving the next wave of talent an experience of competition at the top level. He said: “As the first major event of the new Olympic cycle, we have taken the opportunity to give experience to a group of new seniors at a major championships.

“Clearly we want to maintain the momentum the sport gained from our historic results at the London Olympics but similarly we are aware that in the context of the next four-year cycle we are building towards the important results that will come in 2015.”