Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's gold hero Rhys McClenaghan can become Olympic champion, says coach

By Steven Beacom

Commonwealth Games gold medal winner Rhys McClenaghan can go on and become an Olympic champion according to his coach Luke Carson.

Newtownards teenager McClenaghan stunned the sport of gymnastics by beating modern day great Max Whitlock, representing England, in the pommel horse event to claim top spot on the podium for Team Northern Ireland.

Multiple World champion and double Olympic champion Whitlock was a big favourite to clinch gold in the pommel horse discipline on the Gold Coast in Australia but found himself having to settle for silver due to the heroics of 18-year-old McClenaghan.

Carson, himself a fine gymnast with Commonwealth Games experience, believes the victory for McClenaghan can spur him on to even greater feats.

"This is a huge stepping stone for Rhys and a massive platform for him," said Carson, an inspirational figure in McClenaghan's rise to stardom.

"You have to remember he has only been a senior for one year and he has just beaten the Olympic champion in the Commonwealth Games, which is an amazing multi-nation event to compete in.

"Rhys has been enjoying the atmosphere in the Games village and he has delivered when it counted to win the gold medal.

"We will savour this success but we will soon get down to business again because I believe Rhys can achieve so much in this sport and I genuinely believe he can be an Olympic champion in the future."

Carson has always had faith in McClenaghan insisting for some time that he was capable of competing against and beating the best around.

"When you have been in the sport as long as I have working with the best coaches and best gymnasts in the world you get to know who has the X-Factor," stated Carson.

"From day one I sensed that and saw that X-Factor in Rhys and felt if he was nurtured correctly he could be a superstar.

"In the Commonwealth Games he has shown what he can do on the big stage with a great routine.

"That was a big step and there is no doubt in my mind at all he can improve and a enjoy more success in the years to come."

Belfast Telegraph

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