Northern Ireland news

Gymnastics body blocks Rhys McClenaghan from Commonwealth Games

Rhys McClenaghan represents Ireland in FIG events and won gold competing for Northern Ireland at the last Commonwealth Games

RHYS McClenaghan will be denied the chance to defend his pommel horse gold medal at this summer's Commonwealth Games.

A ruling by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) determined that McClenaghan, Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer cannot compete for Northern Ireland.

Commonwealth Games NI said the decision was "reprehensible" and it plans to challenge.

It said it was made because the gymnasts represent Ireland in FIG events.

McClenaghan from Newtownards was an Olympic finalist for Ireland and won Northern Ireland's only gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

"The FIG appear to have completely disregarded the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the unique situation pertaining to Northern Ireland. They are out of step with all of our other member sports," said Commonwealth Games NI.

"All three athletes were born in Northern Ireland, and have parents born in Northern Ireland, but yet they have been told that they are ineligible to compete for Northern Ireland.

"This is apparently because they compete routinely for Ireland at FIG tournaments. Northern Ireland does not take part in such tournaments. Historically, Team NI at all Commonwealth Games has included athletes across a range of sports who have chosen to represent either IRL or GBR at European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games."

Sport NI has given its full backing to the gymnasts.

"Northern Ireland is a place of complex identities, and the Good Friday Agreement sought to balance these delicate relationships by affording people the greatest possible choice to be British, Irish, Northern Irish, and any or all of the above," said Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown.

"We will also be using our relationships with colleagues in Great Britain to ensure the wider sporting community recognises this decision serves the interests of no-one."

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