I'll come back a 'better gymnast' after Olympic final disaster - Rhys McClenaghan

Ireland's Rhys McClenaghan makes a mistake during the Men's Pommel Horse Final at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on the ninth day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Sunday August 1, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story OLYMPICS Gymnastics. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. ..RESTRICTIONS: Use subject to restrictions. Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior consent from rights holder..
Pádraig Ó Meiscill

RHYS McClenaghan insists he will come back both a “better gymnast” and a “better man” following the crushing disappointment he suffered in the Olympic pommel horse final at the weekend.

The Newtownards gymnast had topped the qualifying standings for Ireland alongside Chinese Taipei's Chih Kai Lee, but his luck was out in the final yesterday morning as he came off the apparatus early in his routine and finished out of the medals in seventh place.

Britain’s Max Whitlock shrugged off the nerves in the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, delivering one of the most difficult routines of his career when it mattered most to retain his Olympic pommel title.

Whitlock went first in the eight-man final and posted a score of 15.583 that proved unbeatable, with Chih Kai Lee coming closest on 15.4 and Japan's Kazuma Kaya winning bronze.

McClenaghan's fall meant he scored just 13.100 to finish seventh of the eight finalists, ahead of China's Wei Sun, who also dismounted.

It was an end to his participation in the Olympic Games that was tough to take for the county Down man, who turned 22 last month, but he refused to feel sorry for himself when talking to RTÉ afterwards.

"I'll come back a better gymnast, a better man,” McClenaghan said.

"I know that I'll feel disappointment, but that's okay. When I do feel disappointment that's when I'm more motivated.

"I'm the first Irish gymnast to reach an Olympic final and that means a lot. It didn't go my way. One finger placement is all it took to knock me off the horse."

"This was the most nervous I've been for any competition I've ever done," gold medallist Whitlock admitted.

"Retaining titles is a million times harder than chasing them. You know you've done it before and you want that feeling again. You watch all those medals flowing in for Team GB and you can relate to it and you know your time is coming up.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access