Rhys McClenaghan setting sights on second European gymnastics gold

Rhys McClenaghan in pommel horse action.
Rhys McClenaghan in pommel horse action. Rhys McClenaghan in pommel horse action.

Rhys McClenaghan targets a second European gold medal in Switzerland today, aiming to cap off an uplifting week for Irish gymnastics.

The Bangor lad is favourite to repeat the pommel horse victory he achieved three years ago in Glasgow at these European Gymnastics Championships in Basel.

Not only did 21-year-old McClenaghan qualify in first place, with a tally of 14.766, one of his British rivals, Max Whitlock failed to reach the final at all, falling during his set and ending up 43rd. Another Briton, Nathan Joshua, was in second spot, but back on 14.533.

McClenaghan has been competing for the first time since winning Ireland's first ever gymnastics World Championship medal in October 2019.

Galway girl Emma Slevin, having become the first Irish female gymnast to get to a final stage, improved on her qualifying performance of 22nd in the All-Around event yesterday.

The 18-year-old finished 19th overall, having performed best in her vault exercise, scoring 13.233, earning 12.400 in the asymmetric bars, with 12.300 in the floor exercise, and 11.900 on the beam.

A competitor from Ireland did earn a medal, a bronze for Dublin-born Jessica Gadirova, but she is now representing Great Britain.

Slevin declared herself "obviously delighted with that performance as well as qualification…Being in with the best gymnasts in the world is an overall amazing experience. Seeing how the top athletes work is very inspiring, and to be able to say I competed alongside them…It's very motivating to know that I'm in with the best in Europe."

In the men's All-Around Final, her Irish colleague Adam Steele finished 21st overall, after starting with 12.266 on the rings, followed by 12.766 on the vault, then 12.333 on the parallel bars. There was better on the horizontal bars, 13.066, better still on the floor exercise, with 13.733, then concluding with 12.566 on the pommel horse.

Gymnastics Ireland CEO Ciaran Gallagher commented: "Three gymnasts through to finals at the European Championships – a superb sporting achievement for Gymnastics Ireland and Ireland as a sporting nation.

"Rhys did what he does best on pommel horse with his qualification secured for the pommel final in first place and Adam pulled out one of his best-ever competition performances to secure his first slot in a senior All-Around European Final."