Prince of Pommel Rhys McClenaghan reflects on World Gymnastics Championships gold medal

There was never any doubt, was there?

Well, Rhys McClenaghan admits he even began to doubt himself after a turbulent period in his career, but he overcame those "brief thoughts" and proved to himself and everyone else that he is the pommel horse king.

It's a first gold medal for any Irish athlete at the World Gymnastics Championships.

The Newtownards man adds World gold to his Commonwealth and European gold medals and he's determined to complete the collection with Olympic Gold. His next chance at that will come at the Paris 2023 Games next summer.

Earlier this year McClenaghan finished second at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham after being originally told by the International Gymnastics Federation that he would not be able to compete for Team NI because he competes for Ireland at international competitions.

The decision was eventually reversed but it was far from ideal preparation as McClenaghan was trying to defend his gold medal from 2018.

Following on from the Commonwealths, McClenaghan failed to qualify for the European Championship Final a couple of weeks later. 

Last year he had high hopes heading into the Tokyo Olympics only to finish seventh and he also missed out on the World Championships final.

But the dedicated athlete turned his disappointment into motivation and admitted there was "huge relief" when he finally realised he was a World Champion in Liverpool last Saturday.

His coach Luke Carson told his parents that their son would be a World Champion when they first started working together in 2014.

"I wouldn't be World Champion without Luke," McClenaghan told me.

"I am the one that gets up on the pommel horse but it is very much a team effort and if it wasn't for all the hard work and sacrifice Luke puts in for our training, this dream would not have happened.

"I genuinely believe that if I had gone with any other coach I would not have gotten to this point."

McClenaghan is taking a short break from training now " to be human again for a couple of weeks" before he begins preparation for Olympic qualification next year.

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