Rhys McClenaghan accentuates positives after Commonwealth silver

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Rhys McClenaghan accentuates positives after Commonwealth silver
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Rhys McClenaghan accentuated the positives after he needed to summon on all smarts and skills to salvage a Commonwealth Games silver.

It's four years since McClenaghan shocked Olympic champion Max Whitlock to win pommel horse gold on Australia's Gold Coast.

With Whitlock, last year's Tokyo gold medallist watching in the stands, this year's final seemed at the mercy of the 23-year-old Newtownards gymnast, a poster boy for Northern Ireland sport.

But an error in his routine meant he was forced to surrender his title to England's Joe Fraser.

"There is a disappointment because I wanted to retain my title, but this result is also a testimony to the hard work I've put in," he said.

"I take pride in the fact that I can make an error as big as that and still walk away with a medal.

"2018 was a great year for me and people think I've fallen off since then but sometimes victories come easily in gymnastics and sometimes, they don't.

"The number one goal of pommel horse is to stay on, and I've managed to do that. But to win the gold you can't make those errors."

This summer, Team Northern Ireland, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will compromise of over 100 athletes, all vying for medal success.

McClenaghan – who also won the European title in four years ago in Glasgow - is joined in Birmingham by team-mates Eamon Montgomery, who finished fifth in Monday's floor final, and Ewan McAteer, who competes for medals in Tuesday's vault.

However, he admits the controversy over their involvement - they'd were told they couldn't represent Northern Ireland because they had previously represented Ireland in international competition - hit the team hard.

They only lined up after a last-minute change of heart by the International Gymnastics Federation after pressure was exerted at the highest government levels.

"A few weeks ago, I wasn't even coming to the Commonwealth Games and people were telling me that I wasn't Northern Irish, that was very hard to take," added McClenaghan.

"Against those odds my team-mates and I have all made finals here and we've got another medal, another historic medal, only our second ever gymnastics medal at the Commonwealth Games.

"Every time I look back on this medal it'll be about the time we almost didn't come. The last few weeks have been tough, but we trained through it, and we still brought home a medal."

McClenaghan will now reset his sights on this month's European Sports Championships in Munich and the World Championships in Liverpool later this year.

But he admits he must improve.

"I need to be a lot better than that and that's the thing we need to work on straight away," he said.

"I know exactly what I need to do, the first half of my routine was absolutely faultless but one small error and that's it over.

"I want to take on everyone, I was disappointed Max wasn't here as I love the feeling of being pushed to be better."

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