Belfast Telegraph

Rising star Rhys McClenaghan strikes silver while chasing top marks

By Frank Brownlow

Rhys McClenaghan has just returned from the European Gymnastics Championships in Switzerland where he won silver - while also having to take his GCSE exams during the trip.

The 16-year-old took silver in the junior pommel horse discipline - Northern Ireland's first ever medal at the championships.

The event was won by Russia's Sergei Naidin.

Rhys, a pupil at Regent House in Newtownards, wowed the judges with one of the most difficult routines of the entire championships.

Rhys sat his exams at the British Embassy in Bern in a special arrangement with his school and the education authorities.

Rhys also took bronze at the British Championships in Liverpool in April at a packed Echo Arena.

A member of Rathgael Gymnastics Club in Bangor, he finished third in the pommel horse event behind World champion Max Whitlock and Olympic silver medallist Louis Smith.

His coach Luke Carson, a former Commonwealth Games gymnast, is confident his protege can go all the way to the top and star at the Olympics in the years ahead.

"I truly believe he can become an Olympic champion in the future," said Carson.

"It is not just me as his coach who thinks he has a big future ahead.

"Other renowned coaches have recognised his talent and Louis Smith and Max Whitlock also think he has great ability.

"When I started coaching Rhys it was clear he had talent and big skills, but he was also rugged and raw. He has progressed so well.

"The pommel horse is his strongest apparatus but all round he is very strong.

"His whole year has been built around the European Junior Championships."

Tracy McClenaghan, mother of Rhys, is extremely proud of her son's achievements.

"It is difficult to find a balance between the gymnastics and schoolwork but it has helped Rhys become good at time management," she said.

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