Rhys McClenaghan: World Championship gold ‘a childhood dream come true’

Rhys McClenaghan: World Championship gold ‘a childhood dream come true’

Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan has described winning gold at the FIG World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool as a ‘childhood dream come through’.

McClenaghan secured gold after a superb performance on the Pommel Horse final.

The 23-year-old, who won a bronze medal in this event in 2019, becomes Ireland’s first-ever world champion in gymnastics.

McClenaghan was third to go and he had a clean and impressive routine, which saw him move into first place with a score of 15.300.

The Co Down man was awarded 8.200 for execution and 6.200 for difficulty, setting a high target for the rest of the field.

Rhys McClenaghan has won Ireland’s first ever gymnastic GOLD at the World Championships in Liverpool this afternoon 💚

Here’s the routine that got him there 🥇pic.twitter.com/ZjVMPoUMRn

— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) November 5, 2022

With others faltering in their routines McClenaghan secured the victory with his score of 15.300 giving him a wide winning margin over silver medallist Ahmad Abu Al Soud (14.866) and bronze medallist Harutyun Merdinyan (14.733).

Speaking after his performance, McClenaghan told RTÉ: « I’m feeling good. I’m just living in this moment… the moment I became world champion, and I couldn’t be happier right now. »

McClenaghan was earlier interviewed by the BBC and struggled to get any words out.

« It was because it was the first time I heard somebody call me a world champion. Something just switched in my head where I just burst into tears and I couldn’t get one word out. It just shows how much this means to means to me. It’s a childhood dream come true.

« It is something I have been working towards for so many years and I’m just so glad that it paid off today. »

Saturday’s success came after disappointment at the Olympics in Tokyo last year and the Commonwealth Games earlier this year. McClenaghan said he learned from those experiences. 

« I have made sure I learned from them. That almost felt like this sport was kicking me when I was down, but I got up every time and I certainly got up today.

« I have put so much pressure on myself every single day in training and in every come I do. When it comes to a world final, I’m almost maxed out in pressure. It’s a very familiar feeling to me « I use it to my advantage. I use it to perform even sharper than I do in training, and I think that really paid off today. »

Gymnastics Ireland’s National Coach, Luke Carson said: “Today the plan came together with precision. I have known Rhys could be a World Champion since 2014, today was that day. I am very proud to be part of this monumental moment in Irish sport. Thank you to Sport Ireland and Gymnastics Ireland for their wonderful support.” 

Gymnastics Ireland’s Performance and Technical Manager Sally Johnson added: “As I said in qualification, that is the definition of a World Class athlete, confidence, focused, great preparation, so well composed! An extremely proud day for Rhys, his family, his coach Luke and for Gymnastics Ireland!” 

Gymnastics Ireland’s CEO Mr Ciaran Gallagher said: “Words can’t describe how we all feel about what Rhys just did today… We are a small nation and we have a world champion in the global sport of gymnastics! To Rhys & our National Coach Luke Carson all I can say is thank you! 

« Congratulations to Rhys’ mum & dad Tracy & Danny, again also to Luke, our Performance & Technical Manager Sally Johnson & Head of Performance Services Julianne Ryan, judge Denis Donoghue and of course most of all Rhys – our World Champion!”

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