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Rhys McClenaghan: World Championship bid ends with slip as organisers respond to chalk removal talk after Covid-19 stoppage


Rhys McClenaghan suffered heartbreak at both the Olympic Games and the World Championships. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Rhys McClenaghan suffered heartbreak at both the Olympic Games and the World Championships. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

©INPHO/James Crombie

Rhys McClenaghan suffered heartbreak at both the Olympic Games and the World Championships. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

The World Gymnastic Championship organisers have responded to Rhys McClenaghan after the Newtownards star pointed to removal of chalk from the pommel horse as his tournament ended with a slip.

His qualifying bid had to be delayed after a previous competitor tested positive for Covid-19 and the apparatus then had to be fully sanitised. That included stripping the equipment of the chalk used for grip, which was then reapplied.

Once the competition resumed, a slip cost McClenaghan a place in the world final, his score of 13.766 not enough to make it through.

He tweeted: “I'm sad I trained until this point just to have the chalk wiped off the equipment and been told to wait 1hour 30mins before I competed. Due to a competitor in the subdivision before testing positive for Covid. Time to go home and just hope there's not another Worlds like this one."

The World Championship organisers, the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique, have said that there were no complaints from competitors over the condition of the apparatus after the tournament resumed.

"The FIG needed to follow the local organising committee’s Covid clean-up protocol, delaying the start of the subdivision,” explained Sports Director & Technical Coordinator Steve Butcher, speaking to the Belfast Telegraph.

"Ten other gymnasts competed on the pommel horse before Rhys in that subdivision, and all of them also had a warm-up on the apparatus.

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"If any problems had been reported, FIG would absolutely have required the time necessary to assure the gymnasts were satisfied with the preparation of the apparatus before competing.

“Rhys is a gymnast of great talent and we look forward to seeing him in action again soon.”

Gymnastics Ireland CEO Ciaran Gallagher said the tight Covid-19 restrictions were understandable.

“It was a difficult subdivision for Rhys McClenaghan out in Japan this morning, and indeed for all the other gymnasts in his sub as a Covid-19 related issue led to over an hour delay to the competition,” he said.

"The tight covid protocols and response to any covid related matter from the Japanese gov/organisers are of course completely understandable however of course this kind of impact mid-event is felt by all the gymnasts.

"As ever Rhys pushed through his routine in difficult circumstances and was unlucky not to final on this occasion.

"We all know what he is capable of and are all incredibly proud to have him fly the flag so well for Ireland/Gymnastics Ireland.

"With this being the last major event in 2021 Rhys, our National Coach Luke and Performance & Technical Manager Sally will now refocus on 2022 as the campaign towards Paris 2024 begins next year."

After a slip also cost the County Down star dear in the final of the Olympic Games earlier this summer, McClenaghan had returned to Japan with the hope of restoring his seat at the top table of world gymnastics.

The 22-year-old, who took gold for Northern Ireland at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, won bronze at the 2019 World Championships and will now have to wait until next year in Liverpool for the chance to grab his first world gold.

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