Belfast Telegraph

Gold medal hero Rhys trains in back garden after being 'forced' out of gymnast club

By Victoria Leonard

Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Rhys McClenaghan has been training on a pommel horse in his back garden just days before major gymnastics events.

Yesterday the 18-year-old Newtownards athlete's mother Tracy posted a picture on social media of her son sitting on the training equipment, and said her "heart is literally breaking for him."

Rhys also shared a video of his training in the back yard, accompanied by the statement: "I did say nothing would stop me.

"This brings back memories of using this pommel horse in my garden when I was nine, because I wanted to spend more time on what I enjoyed most.

"Thanks everybody for the supportive messages, staying positive no matter what."

It came after Rhys' coach Luke Carson was made redundant by Rathgael Gymnastics Club in Bangor last Friday.

Last night Mr Carson told the Belfast Telegraph that the blow had come at a "critical time" for Rhys' career.

And he fears the interruption to the elite athlete's training regime could cost him medal places.

"Rhys is meant to be preparing for the Irish National Championships at the end of this week, and the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup will take place in Turkey on July 6," he said.

"I was made redundant on Friday, which means that Rhys hasn't had proper training for three days, and it could have an impact on him.

"Gymnastics training involves very sensitive, high-level skills.

"I fear that it could cost him a medal place, and that would be his fear too.

"I am in disbelief - the whole situation is very upsetting."

Mr Carson, who had been elite performance manager and head of men's artistic gymnastics at the Co Down club, had worked with the teenager since 2014.

"I helped Rhys forge his elite career. I worked with him between 24 and 32 hours a week," he explained.

"We would have trained for six days a week. Since I have been made redundant, Rhys can't use the facilities as he wouldn't be insured without a professional coach there.

"I told him what had happened a couple of hours after I was made redundant and he was very upset."

On Friday Rhys had tweeted a message saying he had been "unfortunately forced to leave my club, Rathgael Gymnastics Club".

He added: "Thankfully there is a very supportive team behind myself and my coach Luke."

From today the pair will travel to Dublin to continue Rhys' training in a high performance centre. "It's not ideal, but it's the only way he can train," Mr Carson said. "This has come at a critical time."

In a statement issued to the BBC on behalf of Rathgael Gymnastics Club, it said that the club had "encountered significant financial challenges" in the last year.

The club reportedly confirmed that "it has had to take the difficult decision to make two positions redundant within the Elite and High Performance coaching streams".

It added that "these structural changes are being made to safeguard the gym's future".

Belfast Telegraph

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