British gymnast Max Whitlock and coach Eddie Van Hoof will receive honors from Queen Elizabeth II as part of the 2017 New Year Honors, announced Friday. Both were named as Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Max Whitlock with his Olympic all-around bronze medal (Great Britain)
Whitlock made history for British gymnastics at the Olympics this past summer, winning gold medals on floor exercise and pommel horse, and the bronze in individual all-around. His gold was the first for a British gymnast, and he became the first Brit to medal in the all-around medal in 108 years. Whitlock is also the first British male gymnast to become world champion, winning pommel horse at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow.
Now officially known as Max Whitlock MBE, the most successful British gymnast of all time said he was thrilled with the recognition.
"It is a great feeling now to see it on the name card – the three letters after my name – and it gives me a lot of motivation," said Whitlock, 23. "For me, it's a crazy feeling and I feel so, so proud. It does motivate me a lot to move forward to set more targets and go again for another four or eight years."
Van Hoof is the head coach and technical director of the men's team for British Gymnastics. He has overseen a period of tremendous success for men's gymnastics in Great Britain, which has shot to prominence over the past decade and is now one of the top powers internationally. The team won the silver medal behind Japan in Glasgow, and Whitlock, Louis Smith (pommel horse silver) and Nile Wilson (high bar bronze) all picked up medals in Rio.
Previous gymnastics recipients honored by Queen Elizabeth include British stars Smith, Neil Thomas and Beth Tweddle, who were all awarded MBEs. Gym owners Leonard and Yvonne Arnold, who sold their home to fund a new gym prior to the 2012 Olympic Games, were awarded OBEs (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), as was Tweddle's coach, Amanda Reddin. Smith's coach Paul Hall earned an MBE.
The UK had a record performance at the Olympics in Rio, finishing second in the medal table behind only the United States. Tennis star Andy Murray and athletes Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah were among those receiving the highest honours in the New Year's list, with Murray and Farah earning knighthoods and Ennis-Hill made a dame.