Northern Ireland lands Commonweath medals: Rhys McClenaghan wins pommel horse gold and bronze for shooter Gareth McAuley
PEERLESS on the pommel for over three years, double Olympic champion Max Whitlock was dramatically upstaged by Northern Ireland 18-year-old Rhys McClenaghan in their individual apparatus final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Whitlock was left to add only a silver to his previous gold medal in the team competition, while a series of uncharacteristic mistakes during his floor final also left him trailing in sixth place well behind winner Marios Georgiou of Cyprus.
McClenaghan from Antrim underlined his enormous potential by matching Whitlock’s pommel score of 15.1, securing the gold, and with it Northern Ireland’s first medal of any colour at these Games, by virtue of a greater mark for the execution element of his routine.
“Max is one of the best gymnasts ever and I remember watching him at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi when I was 10 years old,” said McClenaghan.
“To be competing against him is incredible but I’m up there with him now and I’ve even overtaken him.” There was also a gold medal for England 17-year-old Georgia-Mae Fenton on the uneven bars, while Courtney Tulloch edged Nile Wilson for gold on the men’s rings.
Whitlock had been considered an overwhelming favourite to add two more Commonwealth golds to his swelling collection, but insisted confirmation of a threat to his longtime dominance of his favoured apparatus will provide him with renewed intensity.
After stepping out early in his floor routine and proceeding to make a series of minor errors, Whitlock’s score failed to threaten the leaders including Scotland’s Dan Purvis, who took bronze.
McClenaghan's success was soon followed by another medal for Northern Ireland after boxer Kristina O'Hara won her light-flyweight quarter-final to guarantee at least a bronze.
The 22-year-old from Belfast won a 3-2 split decision over Wales' Lynsey Holdaway.
Northern Ireland's third medal of the competition came courtesy of shooter Gareth McAuley who won bronze in the men's skeet.
McAuley (25) hit 45 out of his 50 targets to finish in third place behind winner Georgios Achilleos from Cyprus and silver medallist Ben Llewellin from Wales.