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Rhys McClenaghan Feels He Is “On Track” To Take Paris Olympic Gold

Rhys McClenaghan Feels He Is “On Track” To Take Paris Olympic Gold
By Rory Cassidy Updated
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Confidence is something Rhys McClenaghan certainly doesn’t lack.

At the tender age of just 23 he has a glittering CV which gives him every right to talk the talk.

The Newtownards gymnast recently won his second European title in the pommel horse and late last year was crowned World Champion in the event in front of 13,000 fans in Liverpool.

Amongst them were a large number of Irish supporters and McClenaghan delightfully reminisces on how there was more tricolours in the arena than any other flag that day.

Despite having achieved so much some consider his strong confidence unconventional for an Irish athlete but it is something he feels he can stand over.

“It comes from my training. I know that when I'm in the training gym, the routine that I'm doing and the skills that I'm doing are the best in the world,” he tells Balls.ie.

“It's hard for anybody that's not in that gym with me to see that so I feel like I need to communicate that with my words.


“Before I was world champion I wasn't scared of saying ‘I want to be world champion’ because I knew I was capable of it.

“Maybe if I wasn't as good as I was in the gym, I wouldn't have said it but because I truly believed it I felt like I had to just let people know.

“I think it's good for other athletes in the country to have that confidence too.

“I feel like there's a little bit of a dynamic changing there, where people aren't scared to say this is what I want to do and I'm going to achieve it.”

McClenaghan admits that people in his circle have reminded him to “be humble” but felt that they were merely looking out for him.

“I believe I most certainly am humble, but I feel like there wasn't anything wrong with stating what was going on in my mind,” he says.


“You guys are asking the questions and I’m giving the most honest answer I can.

“If anything it's giving you more of an insight into what my thoughts are when I'm in the gym.

“I'm going into the gym every day thinking I want to be a world champion; I want to be an Olympic champion.

“When it's within my capabilities clearly, if I'm downplaying it it's almost like I don't believe it, but I do believe it.

“I want to be walking away with medals for my country and that's why I'm here, that's why I'm doing this.”

Rhys McClenaghan disappointed with Europeans performance

McClenaghan is a self-confessed perfectionist and while he took gold at the Europeans in Turkey earlier this month he was not satisfied with his performance.


“I think that would have been six tenths of a point off the routine that won me the World Championships. That's quite a lot of points in gymnastics.

“It's important for me to analyse the routine, look back on what went wrong and fix that in the training gym now.”

15 April 2023; Rhys McClenaghan of Ireland with his gold medal after winning the Men's Pommel Horse Final during the 2023 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships at Antalya Spor Salonu in Antalya, Türkiye. Photo by Filippo Tomasi /Sportsfile


Despite what he feels was a sub-par performance he is still supremely confident about his chances at the Olympics in Paris next summer. In Tokyo two years he go he came off the apparatus and ultimately finished seventh, a fate which he will be hoping not to see a repeat of.

“We're on track, we're hitting all of our goals, and we're performing consistent gymnastics and that's exactly what we want to see.”

Himself and his coach Luke Carson have been working on a new routine which he says is “likely” to be the one that he attempts at the Olympics.

“That will hopefully push me in the lead by a good margin and comfortably get me that gold but it's still a work in progress.

“Even things that I've been doing for years and years still needs to be practiced over and over again and it can be monotonous in that way, but it needs to be done.”

McClenaghan works with sports psychologist and former Olympian Jessie Barr and incorporates a lot of self-talk and visualisation into his pre competition strategy.

He believes that given how fine the margins are in the event, mental strength is imperative.

“You've trained your whole life for this routine that's under sixty seconds. That's almost too much for the mind to take.

“It's about finding different strategies and different ways that you can comfort yourself in that moment and make you perform your best.”

Rhys McClenaghan - the vlogging gymnast

As he continues to be Ireland’s leading light in the sport, McClenaghan is very conscious that he is a role model to the next generation.

In 2021 he set up a YouTube channel where he vlogs his life, accumulating over 20,000 subscribers to date.

“It's actually quite a lot of work, I enjoy doing it. The main goal is to inspire younger gymnasts,” he explains.


“I would have absolutely loved that growing up having a person that's going to the Olympics or winning World Championships just videoing everything that they're doing and their training.”

While his YouTube channel is very much his “creative outlet” his primary focus is becoming one of the greatest to ever compete in the sport.

“I think consistency is what separates the good gymnasts from the great gymnasts. The gymnasts that will be looked back on for generations to come.

“The ones that can say they've got multiple Olympic medals or multiple world titles, those are the ones that really stand out to me and what separates them is the consistency.

“There's been lots of world champions in gymnastics but there's not been so many double world champions or multiple European champions.

“I want to be that gymnast.”

SEE ALSO: Where Ireland's Hopeful Olympians Stand, 18 Months From Paris 2024

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