Olympic gymnast’s family bursting with pride ahead of final
THE proud mum of gymnastics star Rhys McClenaghan has revealed the family will be breaking out the bubbly no matter what happens in Sunday’s Olympic final.
The 23-year-old, from Newtownards, Co Down, is one of the medal favourites ahead of the pommel horse final after recording the joint second highest qualifying score.
His mother, pre-school teacher Tracy McClenaghan (52), said the family was bursting with pride just to see him make it to the Olympics and would be popping corks no matter what happens.
“We’ll be having a watch party in the garden with some family. It’ll be croissants and prosecco,” she added.
“We will be cracking open the bubbly no matter what happens because we’re celebrating the fact he made it to the Olympics this year with everything that’s gone on.
“The fact that he made it to an Olympic final is amazing. Anything else beyond that is a bonus.
“He has the mindset, as do we, that there is no point in worrying about things outside of our control, so if he goes and does a good routine, we’ll be absolutely delighted.”
Mrs McClenaghan, who was unable to travel to Tokyo to watch Rhys because of Covid-19 restrictions, admitted it was more stressful watching her boy compete on the TV than being in the venue with him.
“I’m feeling nervous but excited. It’s nerve-racking being at home. In some ways, it’s easier when you’re there,” she continued.
“When you’re in the competition venue, it’s nice to be able to pick up things from Rhys and his coach Luke [Carson]. You can see if they’re relaxed and happy and so on.
“I’m in regular contact with him and he seems really happy. He’s excited and looking forward to today’s final. It’s his first Olympics and we want him to enjoy it and take it all in.
“When it’s a sport scored by judges, you can never know what way it’s going to go, but Rhys’s motto has always been that he wants it to be undeniable.
“That means he wants to leave it in the judges’ minds that he is absolutely the best and he should be the one at the top.
“Whether he’ll do it this time or not, at his first Olympics, I don’t know, but let’s see. He’ll have a good crack at it.”
Rhys has been keeping a video diary to keep himself occupied in the Olympic Village, with athletes restricted by lockdown measures to try and ensure a safe Games amid the pandemic.
In one video, Rhys filmed himself jumping on the “anti-sex” beds installed in the athletes’ accommodation, much to Tracy’s amusement.
She said: “He’s absolutely loving it in the Olympic Village. He’s been vlogging, which has kept him occupied as there isn’t a great deal for them to do over there.
“It’s been great for us as well. It’s helped us to feel a part of it and I think his personality comes across really well in them [the videos]. It’s typical Rhys.
“The video about the anti-sex beds was hilarious. For days afterwards, it was all I saw on my social media feeds.
“I had a typical mother’s reaction of ‘Rhys stop jumping on the bed’.”
Rhys isn’t the only Northern Ireland medal hopeful on ‘Super Sunday’, with boxers Aidan Walsh and Kurt Walker also going for gold alongside Rory McIlroy.
Tracy said she was proud of her son for expressing his solidarity with US gymnast Simone Biles after she pulled out of the all-around team event for mental health reasons.
Ms McClenaghan added: “I’m so proud of Rhys for standing up for his fellow athlete and I think that has been the overwhelming sentiment from other athletes.”