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McClenaghan takes silver as England's Fraser claims Commonwealth crown

‘So close,’ said the Irish Olympian. ‘And we’ll sharpen up for the next competition.’

England's Joe Fraser (gold), Northern Ireland's Rhys McClenaghan (silver) and Canada's Jayson Rampersad (bronze).
England's Joe Fraser (gold), Northern Ireland's Rhys McClenaghan (silver) and Canada's Jayson Rampersad (bronze).
Image: PA

RHYS MCCLENAGHAN RELINQUISHED his Commonwealth pommel horse crown to England’s Joe Fraser in the latter’s hometown of Birmingham this afternoon, the Co. Down native taking silver for Northern Ireland after a costly error during the second half of his routine.

Brummie Fraser’s remarkable performance yielded a score to beat of 14.833 in front of an adoring audience, piling pressure on Irish Olympian McClenaghan who took Commonwealth gold in Gold Coast, Australia in 2018.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Newtownards man opted for a lower-difficulty routine than he has performed in recent competitions. A separation of his legs proved terminal to his chances of gold, while McClenaghan was also disappointed with his dismount.

McClenaghan, who had been the gold-medal favourite in the absence of Olympic champ Max Whitlock, lodged an inquiry into his score of 14.133, believing his difficulty level had been undervalued. In truth, the appeal appeared to be an attempt only to consolidate his position in second place.

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The inquiry was dismissed but the remaining competitors were unable to usurp McClenaghan or the sensational new champion Fraser, who was serenaded by his home support as his gold medal was confirmed.

“I’m not feeling too bad,” said silver medalist McClenaghan. “A little bit disappointed I didn’t retain my title but it went to a deserving opponent and unfortunately that error I made in my routine cost me that gold medal. I’m just going to have to live with that.

“I definitely knew that that wasn’t up to my standard — it wasn’t anywhere near my standard. It was due to that mistake, and the dismount didn’t go right… But the first half of the routine was great and I think that’s why I shook my head more than anything. Y’know, so close… And we’ll sharpen up for the next competition.”

Asked by the BBC about the possible effects of his much publicised battle to even be allowed to compete at the Commonwealths at all — this after he and two of his team-mates, Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAtee, had originally been banned from competing for Northern Ireland having previously represented Ireland — McClenaghan replied: “That’s what I’m most proud of, I think, is that we made it here against the odds, we took home another historic medal for our country.

“This is only the second ever gymnastics medal taken home, and the first was the gold I won in Gold Coast. So, that’s a proud thing for me to take away from this but I know I’m capable of more.”

McClenaghan clarified that the acclaim with which Fraser was received for his exception routine “wasn’t off-putting at all.”

“I’m focusing on my job and my job alone,” the 23-year-old added.

If I had have gone through my best routine, I would have taken that gold medal. But Joe was the better man on the day and I’ve come up in this gymnastics game with Joe, so I’m actually very proud seeing him take home gold in front of a home crowd in Birmingham. I couldn’t be more happy for Joe.

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birmingham-2022-commonwealth-games-day-four McClenaghan embraces Fraser. Source: PA

Back in the BBC studio, meanwhile, Olympic champion Whitlock — injured for these games — said his Irish rival should have ‘pushed the boat out’ with a more difficult routine if he was going to eclipse Fraser’s stunning performance.

“McClenaghan’s difficulty level was so much lower than what he has been doing,” Whitlock said.

“I’m not sure the exact reasons for that, but I felt he could have done more. In this scenario he should have pushed the boat out a little more and put the risk factor up.

“If you put the risk factor up then there is more room for small mistakes. This routine, with a lower difficulty, left no room for error, so when he made costly mistakes along the way it cost him.

“When Joe Fraser landed his routine just before Rhys, the only way Rhys could win is if he was perfectly clean. But his legs split, and that cost him gold.”

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