Rhys McCleanghan proud to medal despite bittersweet feeling

Rhys McClenaghan admitted it was a bittersweet moment after winning a silver medal in the Pommel Horse at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Tuesday, 2nd August 2022, 8:00 am

The Newtonards native went into the tournament as defending champion but watched England’s Joe Fraser score 14.833 immediately before he started his routine.

It was going well for McClenaghan but a mistake cost him any chance of the gold medal and he had to settle for second place with a score of 14.133.

But just being in Birmingham was an achievement after Team NI’s three gymnasts were told they couldn’t compete by the International Gymnastics Federation before the ban was eventually overturned.

Northern Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan receives his silver medal during the ceremony for the Men’s Pommel Horse Final

“It is a little bit of mixed emotions,” said McClenaghan after receiving his medal. “We won gold last time and we came here to retain the title but it wasn’t to be unfortunately.

“There was just a small error during that routine which cost me the gold medal but nevertheless I’m happy to bring home another medal for me country.

“The fact that all three of us gymnasts are here representing our country, all three of us have made finals which in my eyes in the most successful Northern Irish gymnastics team.

“I’m very proud to be part of that team and contribute a medal.”

McClenaghan explained what went wrong in the routine.

“It was one of my hand placements whch was off and I wasn’t patience enough in one of the travels,” he explained. “And that is just enough to set you off balance.

“Then I had to split my legs on the pommel to stay on it but we fought through to the end of the routine.

“That is one of the battles staying on the apparatus in gymnastics and the fact I did is why I’m sitting here with a medal.

“Judging by my training routines we were on track for a very nice performance but it just wasn’t to be.

“That’s the fine margins in this sport but I look forward to another opportunity where I can showcase my gymnastics to the best of my ability.

“I know my gymnastics when I perform at my best is much better than the score that won the gold.”

McClenaghan is hoping medalling at the last two Commonwealth games will inspire a generation of athletes coming behind him like Eamon Montgomery.

The 19-year-old was also in action yesterday finishing fifth in the Floor.

“I feel Eamon is a great example of a young gymnast coming up and performing on the international stage and that brings me a huge amount of excitement,” he said.

“People are watching Eamon on the tv and taking motivation from him and hopefully that will continue throughout my gymnastics career.”

The third member of the gymnastics squad Ewan McAteer goes in this afternoon’s vault final.

“We all did our job and that was the main criteria that we had to hit,” said McClenaghan. “We have all done that and proved our worth at these championships.

“Eamon did an outstanding routine, I watched him in the training hall before I went out. I’m bringing home another medal and I’m looking forward to Ewan’s performance.”