OF all the lessons learnt by Pavel Karnejenko over the past twelve months, by far the most pertinent is to never hold anything back.

Scotland’s top male gymnast found out the hard way that if you are to have any chance of success at the highest level, caution must be, almost, thrown to the wind.

It was at the Commonwealth Games last summer that Karnejenko found himself in the quandary of whether to stick or twist, in the gymnastics sense.

An ankle injury leading into Birmingham 2022 meant that the 22-year-old had considerably less preparation on the floor and vault than he would have liked which in turn led to him doing simpler routines than he’d ideally have chosen.

He ultimately finished in a creditable fifth place in the all-around final in Birmingham, but he admits he was left wondering what could have been had he thrown everything at it.

“My injury happened in April-time so I didn’t have much time to have my operation and recover so my initial goal was to just get fit so I could compete,” he says.

“Going into the all-round final, my expectations were very low. But then all of a sudden, at the half-way point, I was in first place and I was just in complete shock to be in that position. I was looking at the leader-board thinking ‘oh my god’.

“Going into parallel bars, I had so much adrenaline going through my body so I told myself not to put too much into it but I ended up under-rotating and really, I lost my way.

“What it taught me was just not to hold back.

“Ahead of Birmingham, my coach had been telling me I had the capability of winning a medal but I didn’t really believe him. Now, I wish I had and really gone for it because afterwards, I realised he was right.”

His mistake on the parallel bars ultimately proved fatal to his medal chances but the Estonian-born athlete has, on reflection, taken considerable positives from his Commonwealth Games experience that he will, he hopes, stand him in good stead this season.

“Birmingham was my first major senior championship and it felt far bigger than anything I’d ever done before so it was a great experience to be a part of an event like that,” he says.

“And it’s made me believe in myself more. Considering I’d been injured and the routines I was doing, my result was good but it was bitter-sweet. I was happy to be in the top five but I wonder if I could have done better.

“If you go for it the rewards can be big.

It’s a good lesson to learn and so hopefully, that’ll help me going forward.”

Karnejenko goes into the Scottish Championships, which begin on Saturday in Perth, as defending champion for the first time.

Having won his maiden national title last year, he is heavy favourite to defend his all-around crown this weekend but having experienced the drawbacks of putting too much pressure on himself already this month, he is adamant he’s doing everything he can to prevent himself overthinking the result in Perth.

“There is pressure because in myself, I suppose I expect to win,” he says.

“But I realise that recently, I’ve been thinking too much about the score – a couple of weeks ago, I had a bad week because I was too focused on the score and I end up with a calculator in my head. That just puts you under so much more pressure so I want to just think about my performance his weekend.”

With Commonwealth bronze medallist, Shannon Archer, absent from these Scottish Championships, Karnejenko will be the biggest Scottish name on show but he will almost certainly have a few headlines snatched from him due to the presence of a true gymnastics superstar; Max Whitlock.

The Englishman, who is a three-times Olympic gold medallist, took a prolonged break from the sport following the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 in order to contemplate his future.

The pommel horse specialist has talked openly of his mental health struggles in the past year and a half but after seriously considering retirement, 30-year-old Whitlock, who Karnejenko trains alongside regularly, chose to comeback and is now aiming for the 2024 Olympics.

These Scottish Championships will be his first competitive appearance in eighteen months as he begins his build-up to Paris 2024.