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International Gymnastics Federation overturns decision and allows NI athletes to compete in Commonwealth Games


Rhys McClenaghan

Rhys McClenaghan

Rhys McClenaghan

Three Northern Ireland athletes who faced missing the Commonwealth Games will now compete in Birmingham after being granted special dispensation.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has overturned its original decision, which had threatened to stop Rhys McClenaghan, Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer appearing at the games.

There was anger after the three were told last month that they could not compete in Birmingham because they have represented Ireland in international competition.

But FIG has now changed its initial ruling.

McClenaghan Tweeted: “I’m delighted to finally be allowed to compete at the Commonwealth Games. I get the opportunity to retain my title compete with my team mates and represent everybody who has assisted and supported me in this difficult time.”

He added: “I’ll celebrate when that medal is around my neck”.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said: “I welcome today’s decision on behalf of local athletes. I spoke to Eamon Montgomery, Ewan McAteer and Rhys McClenaghan following the original decision by FIG and they were devastated by the move.

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“I am delighted these three talented local athletes can now continue their focused preparations to compete at this year’s Commonwealth Games next month in Birmingham."

Ms Hargey added she would continue to support the unique position of local athletes across all sporting codes.

“The Federation’s decision rightly recognises the unique position that is conferred upon our citizens under the Good Friday Agreement.

“This needs to be respected across all codes and in all international competitions.

“I am fully committed to continuing to support all our athletes and to ensure their right to participate in sport is protected.

“I hope that today’s announcement sends a strong message of encouragement to our athletes and will inspire more young people to get engaged in sport, particularly on the international stage.”

Despite all three athletes being born in Northern Ireland,  FIG had previously ruled that because they routinely compete for Ireland, they were not eligible to compete for Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.

Last month Rhys, along with his gymnastics teammates launched an impassioned plea for FIG to overturn their decision to ban them.

“I was born in Northern Ireland, my residence is in Northern Ireland and I represented and won Gold for Northern Ireland in the last Commonwealth Games,” McClenaghan, who claimed his gold medal on the pommel horse, wrote on Twitter at the time.

“I feel that FIG do not understand the gravity of the Belfast Agreement and the unique situation pertaining to Northern Ireland. Every other sport understand the eligibility of Northern Irish athletes in accordance with Commonwealth Games.”

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