Rhys McClenaghan has a fighting mentality. It should not come as a surprise then that during the first stages of lockdown earlier this year two iconic fighting men provided the world class gymnast with inspiration in a purpose built shed at his Newtownards home.
The world may have been shut down due to Covid-19 and maintaining a normal training regime was impossible, but there were still Olympic dreams to fulfil on the pommel horse, so 21-year-old Commonwealth Games and European champion Rhys and his dad Danny went to work.
And with a little help from the greatest boxer of them all, Muhammad Ali, and Irish UFC superstar Conor McGregor, plus a reminder of the Games in Tokyo where he hopes to strike gold next year, the brilliant McClenaghan got down to business.
"Me and my dad built a whole new room onto our house. I say room, it was more like a shed because there was a lot of plywood. It's a 12 feet cube and it just about fitted the pommel horse in and allowed me to work on all of my skills," said McClenaghan, speaking in his role as ambassador for Lidl's Sport For Good initiative.
"When the first lockdown was put in place in March the weather actually stayed quite nice but we thought it was going to rain all the time and that's why we put a roof over our heads.
"It was cool. As soon as I went into that shed I was in the zone and getting things done, training for that Olympic gold medal. I had posters up of Muhammad Ali and Conor McGregor and the Olympic rings, of course, to maintain that focus.
"I tend to relate a lot to fighters. I feel like I have a fighting mentality.
"They are not timid to say that they want to go out and win and that's something I relate to a lot.
"That's why I love to hear the greats of the fighting world speak because they speak with such confidence and knowledge that they are going to go out there and win."
McClenaghan, as an Elite athlete, has been able to train with his coaches more recently, having long since come to terms with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics being delayed to 2021. He says the extra time has been well spent.
"It was a bit of shock when the news came that the Olympics would be postponed for one year," admitted McClenaghan, who won bronze for Ireland at the World Championships last year.
"There were mental adjustments that needed to be made over that lockdown period. It was a period of a lot of thinking to say the least.
"There were phases of doubt but I'm naturally a very positive person so I would tend to find my way to the more optimistic point of view.
"The conclusion I kept coming to that made sense to me the most was that it is one more year of getting better.
"I started to work on upgrades and make the right adjustments that I might not have necessarily been able to do if the lockdown hadn't happened so I was working on my weaknesses and also making my strengths even better.
"I got down to Dublin in June and that was a big relief to kick off in the gym again. I am still training by myself but I have my two coaches Luke Carson and Matthew O'Connor.
"With Luke being my main coach it is good to have him by my side again motivating me because that is something I struggled with over lockdown.
"There were no training partners and no coach to push me that little extra so it all had to come from myself.
"We have upgraded our routine and used this time very wisely to put in those upgrades and I feel like I will be more ready than ever when the Olympics come around."
Before the Games start in July, McClenaghan hopes to compete in April at the European Championships, which he won so impressively in 2018 along with the Commonwealth Games, beating England's Olympic champion Max Whitlock in the process.
He says: "I hope 2021 is my biggest year so far. That's the plan. There is no holding back.
"I'm going for all the gold medals and even after the Olympic Games there's the World Championships that have been confirmed for Tokyo as well.
"I might be the first ever World Champion and Olympic Champion in the same year in the pommel horse."
McClenaghan is a polite, charming, articulate and talented young man who is a credit to his parents Tracey and Danny and to gymnastics.
He wants other youngsters from Northern Ireland to enjoy sport like he has done which is why he is so excited about Lidl's Sport for Good campaign.
"When Lidl offer 40 schools in Northern Ireland £3,000 worth of equipment that is a big deal.
"For schools to find funding for sporting equipment is not easy so for Lidl to provide this is an amazing thing.
"When a school can facilitate the right equipment and right physical education classes it gives kids belief and joy, so it is a very important campaign."
I say to Rhys that, despite being at the start of what promises to be a phenomenal career, he has become an inspiration and important ambassador for sport in Northern Ireland.
He replies: "It's an honour to hear that because it is something I want to be. I enjoy preaching the word of sport because I know how much it has given me in my life and I want others to enjoy sport like I do.
"I went to the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards when I was 15 or 16 and Carl Frampton was speaking at the awards and he made an impression on me as well as many others.
"I remember thinking I want to have that impact.
"That is an example of the power of sport and I want to inspire people as well."
WIN £3,000 LIDL VOUCHERS
Lidl Community Works is giving 40 secondary schools across Northern Ireland a chance to win £3,000 worth of vouchers to invest in essential sports equipment (one school for each one of their stores in Northern Ireland). This represents a total investment of £120,000 by the retailer.
To enter, visit your local Lidl store and use the 10 digit code on your receipt to nominate the school of your choice at lidl-ni.co.uk/lidl-community-works
Entries are open until December 18.
The programme is designed to encourage young people to make the most of physical and mental benefits of sport participation, which provides young people with a boost to social skills, self-esteem and body confidence as well as a lifelong support network of mentors and friends.