Rhys McClenaghan's Euro bid facing cash KO, claims gymnast Luke Carson
Top international gymnast Luke Carson has hailed talented 15-year-old Rhys McClenaghan as "ahead of everyone else" but warns that the Bangor youngster may be forced to withdraw from the European Youth Olympics Festival in July due to a lack of funding.
Pommel horse specialist McClenaghan is a three-time UK School Games medallist and has already secured a place on the Irish 2016 Olympic training squad. Trained by Carson at Rathgael Gymnastics Club, McClenaghan is tipped for big things and his coach is confident that he has got what it takes to turn professional.
With no funding available for juniors in the sport of gymnastics, McClenaghan's training fees, camps and competition entries and all other expenses have to be entirely supported by his family, who are struggling to afford the growing costs needed for him to fulfil his potential.
Carson has launched a fundraising campaign in a bid to raise £3,000 - the bare minimum McClenaghan needs in order to compete at the European Youth Olympics Festival in Georgia - for the promising gymnast.
Carson said: "He's ahead of everyone else. His work ethic, his determination, his motivation is far superior to that of most people his age - he already shows many qualities of a senior gymnast.
"He would out-perform even some of the top internationals around the world and his pommel horse routines would be bigger than most senior internationals, with him being able to complete one of the hardest skills in the world, the triple Russian on one handle."
He added: "I can see him, with the correct coaching on my part, going the full way. Not just going to Worlds and Olympics and Commonwealth Games as a competitor, but pushing for medals.
"But because there is no funding available for him as a junior, it is very hard to raise the money he needs to travel to the competitions.
"If he gets a medal at the European Youth Olympics Festival, which has never been done before by an Irish gymnast, he opens himself up to some pretty decent funding from the Irish Olympic Council, but he needs funds to get to the European Youth Olympics Festival to compete for that medal and funding. It's a vicious circle."
McClenaghan's fundraising campaign has been set up on www.PledgeSports.org and offers anyone who wants to support this rising star the platform to do so.