Commonwealth Games block blow ‘devastating’ for Rhys McClenaghan and Team NI

Rhys McClenaghan - Northern Ireland’s only gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games four years ago in the Gold Coast - has been told that he cannot defend his title in Birmingham this summer.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 7:37 pm

The pommel horse champion is part of a three-strong gymnastics squad that was selected to represent Team NI.

McClenaghan, Ewen McAteer (vault) - who also competed in Australia four years ago - and Eamon Montgomery (floor) - who would be attending his first games - have been told by International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) that they can’t represent Northern Ireland.

“On Monday myself and the other two gymnasts were told that we had been selected for the Commonwealth Games and that was a happy day and then on Thursday we were told that we are being deselected due to the FIG’s decision not to allow us to represent Northern Ireland,” said McClenaghan. “It is devasting because it was one of, if not the, best days of my life representing my country at the Gold Coast and winning a gold medal and now I seemingly won’t get that opportunity.

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Rhys McClenaghan at the Commonwealth Games with Team NI in 2018. Pic by PA.

“I relish and really look forward to those opportunities and when an opportunity like this is taked away from me and is out of my control it is very frustrating.

“I just hope the FIG can make the right decision and select us.

“A lot of my programming works towards the Commonwealth Games, which is every four years like the Olympic Games, so for me it is like that secondary Olympic Games and when that is taken away from me it is a very heart-breaking thing to have happen.

“For all of us, I’d say we are equally disappointed, it would be Eamon’s first Commonwealth Games and it is not a great representation of what sport is like...for me sport is a beautiful place to be in and right now it is not.”

Commonwealth Games NI commented: “The FIG appear to have completely disregarded the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the unique situation pertaining to Northern Ireland.

“They are out of step with all of our other member sports.,

“All three athletes were born in Northern Ireland, and have parents born in Northern Ireland, but yet they have been told that they are ineligible to compete for Northern Ireland.

“This is apparently because they compete routinely for Ireland at FIG tournaments. Northern Ireland does not take part in such tournaments.”