Gymnast speaks out after Commonwealth Games controversy
After missing out on two major events during the coronavirus pandemic, Eamon Montgomery sat down at the start of the season and wrote down his biggest goal - compete for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.
The 19-year-old from Poleglass was devastated to miss out on back-to-back under-age European Championships due to the global situation, but was fully understanding of the reason. So when he was told he would be going to Birmingham in July to represent Northern Ireland, it was one of the happiest days of his life to see not just a year’s work, but several years’ work rewarded.
And then, with one baffling decision from the International Gymnastics Federation, it was inexplicably taken away from him.
“My coach and I would have sat down and this would have been my major goal. If it gets taken away, it’ll be heartbreaking really,” said Montgomery, who competes in the floor exercise.
“It’s weird because this has happened to me a few times. For this to happen now, the biggest one yet, it’s just devastating. It’s the third major competition I haven’t been able to get to.”
That is the harrowing effect of this decision that, in effect, neglects the meaning behind the Good Friday Agreement — it has put a career dream on hold.
While Rhys McClenaghan and Ewan McAteer were due to return to the Commonwealth Games after both competed on the Gold Coast in 2018, this was due to be Montgomery’s first.
He was coming in with momentum, too. After a sixth-placed finish at the World Cup back in March, hopes were high that he could ride that momentum into Birmingham and potentially produce a medal-winning finish.
“I was feeling very confident going into it. I was being asked how I’d fare and I believed I could have won a medal, if not gold. I have the skill to do it,” he added.
“We’ve all been training for weeks. There are other competitions but this is the big one, it only comes up every four years, so you obviously want to get to it.
“Rhys got to it last time and wants to defend his medal, Ewan did well last time and this would obviously have been my first. Missing out on it, if it does go that way, would be disappointing but what can I do, really?”
Indeed, it is understandable that the teenager — who speaks with a maturity beyond his years — flips between the past and present tenses as we speak. While he is conscious that, as of right now, he is still banned from competing at the Commonwealth Games, there is still a belief that he could yet be part of Team NI in Birmingham if the decision is overturned.
The trio of gymnasts had a meeting with the Northern Irish Commonwealth Games committee on Thursday to brainstorm ideas moving forward, which Montgomery left feeling upbeat.
In the end, he is happy to leave things up to those in positions of power while he’ll keep training as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening. As he says, what else can he do?
“We’re disappointed but not discouraged. I’ll continue with my training, it’ll be business as usual. There are other competitions I need to be ready for afterwards, so I’ll still be training six days a week,” he said.
“I’m preparing to go, and I think that’s a good mentality. I’d rather be ready than not.”