Max Whitlock hoping to follow Louis Smith

Double Olympic bronze medal winner Max Whitlock has said he can fill the void left in the British gymnastics team by Louis Smith.

Silver medallist Smith is not expected to compete this year after taking on other projects following London 2012.

And Essex-based Whitlock, from Hemel Hempstead, believes he can become the country's next gymnastics star.

Max Whitlock pommel horse

Max Whitlock has been given a personalised pommel horse by Gymnova, the manufacturer who provided kit for the London Olympics.

The new pommel horse, which he will keep at home, is worth £2,000. He bought his previous one for £15 from his old school.

"I really hope so. I've just got to go out there and keep proving myself," the 20-year-old told BBC Essex.

"I feel like I've proved myself that little bit. But you've still got to fight for your place so nothing is guaranteed."

Peterborough's Smith, 23, has been the face of the sport in the UK since becoming the first British man to win an individual Olympic medal in gymnastics for 100 years when taking bronze on the pommel horse at Beijing 2008.

He followed that up in London by winning silver, narrowly missing out on gold, but team-mate Whitlock announced himself on the international scene by claiming bronze in the same discipline.

The pair also contributed to GB's team bronze.

But Smith's focus has shifted away from the gym since the end of the Games and he successfully stepped into entertainment by winning the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing programme.

And, with both the European Championships (April, Moscow) and World Championships (Antwerp, September/October) this year, Whitlock is expecting British gymnastics to continue to improve.

"We've got a massive depth in the squad. For London it was a massive fight to get into the team, people were fighting for five places," said the South Essex Gymnastics Club member.

"I'm sure in years to come the juniors are looking really strong and there's a lot of them. Hopefully for Rio we'll have an even tougher fight on our hands."