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'I'll come back a better gymnast and a better man' - Devastation for Rhys McClenaghan in pommel horse final

The Irishman fell during his routine, finishing seventh and missing out on a medal.

Rhys McClenaghan after his disappointing performance in the Olympic final.
Rhys McClenaghan after his disappointing performance in the Olympic final.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated Aug 1st 2021, 11:32 AM

THERE WAS DEVASTATION for Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan in the final of the men’s pommel horse this morning, as he missed out on a medal with a seventh-placed finish. 

McClenaghan qualified with a score bettered by only one opponent and was thus rated as a major medal contender, but he stumbled and fell off the horse early in his routine, undone by a slightly errant hand-placement. As he later explained, his finger got caught under one of the handles, which led him to lose momentum and then his balance. 

He resumed to complete what he had intended to do, but a score of 13.100 meant a seventh-placed finish in an eight-man field. 

McClenaghan’s final score is a considerable disimprovement on his semi-final score of 15.260, and is a major disappointment as he sought to become the first Irish gymnast to win an Olympic medal, having already broken than ground at the European and World championships. 

“I knew I would feel disappointment with this performance, but that’s okay, when I do feel disappointment that’s when I am more motivated and more hungry than ever”, McClenaghan told RTÉ.

“I am definitely the kind of person to turn a negative into a positive, and that’s exactly what I am going to do. I am going to leave this arena with an incredible experience, becoming an Olympian, becoming the first Irish gymnast to be an Olympic finalist, that’s very special to me. That’s my achievement at these Olympic Games. 

“It didn’t go my way today. One finger placement is all it took to knock me off the horse, they are the fine margins in this game. It is brutal. 

“That was only the second time in this whole competition build-up that I’ve fallen off the horse. That is an incredible statistic that I should take pride in. I have enjoyed the journey, this isn’t the end of it by any means.

“What happened was my finger got caught under the handle, that’s it. It throws off your whole momentum. I’ll adjust and fix that and come back a way better gymnast and a way better man.”


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rhys-mcclenaghan-falls-during-his-performance-in-the-mens-pommel-final The moment McClenaghan fell from the pommel horse. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The gold medal was won by defending Olympic champion Max Whitlock, who opened the final with a stunning score of 15.583. 

Lee Chih Kai of Chinese Taipei took silver with a score of 15.400, with Japan’s Kazuma Kaya winning bronze with a 14.900. 


About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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