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McClenaghan wins fight to compete at Commonwealth Games

Rhys McClenaghan and two fellow Northern Ireland gymnasts have been cleared to compete at this summer’s Games.

NORTHERN IRELAND’S GYMNASTS have won their fight to compete at next month’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The three-strong team, including reigning pommel champion Rhys McClenaghan, had been barred by the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) because they are licensed to compete for Ireland in international competition.

But the controversial ruling has been overturned, with McClenaghan tweeting: “I’m delighted to finally be allowed to compete at the Commonwealth Games. I get the opportunity to retain my title, compete with my teammates and represent everybody who has assisted and supported me in this difficult time.”

The announcement had led to a storm of protest, with Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland accusing the FIG of having “completely disregarded” the Good Friday agreement with its actions.

The FIG had initially been unrepentant, indicating that Northern Ireland gymnasts faced the stark choice of missing the event or potentially switching to compete for one of the other home nations.

Sport Northern Ireland welcomed FIG’s decision but said the saga emphasised the need to reach an international consensus on the eligibility of its athletes.

Sport NI chief executive Antoinette McKeown said: “Fairness for all the athletes involved was at the heart of this matter and that is why we’re delighted to see this issue resolved with a positive outcome for our gymnasts and their sport.

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“This issue has highlighted the need for a clear international consensus when it comes to Northern Irish athletes, and we will be engaging in wider conversations to pursue this aim.”

McClenaghan shot to prominence when he beat Olympic champion Max Whitlock to win gold on the Gold Coast in 2018. The following year he won a world bronze medal in Stuttgart on the same apparatus. 

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