For the second successive time Rhys McClenaghan endured clear disappointment in his latest quest to medal on the global gymnastics stage, on this occasion a delay due to Covid-19 measures likely costing him a place in the pommel horse final at the World Championships being staged in Kitakyushu city, Japan.
McClenaghan was one of several gymnasts who appeared to come undone after the competition was delayed for some 90 minutes in order for the apparatus to be fully sanitised after a competitor in one of the sub-divisions tested positive for Covid-19.
Two years ago, the 22-year-old McClenaghan won World Championship bronze in the pommel horse in Stuttgart, and was intent on making the eight-man final here: instead a late slip cost him dearly and he scored 13.766, placing him back in 19th behind the top qualifier Hao Weng of Chine (15.600).
Canada’s William Emard fell heavily during his routine, the recently cleaned pommel horse clearly causing some issues.
“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,” McClenaghan wrote on Twitter. “Time to go home and just hope there’s not another Worlds like this one.”
It’s just over two months since McClenaghan became the first Irish Olympic gymnastics finalists, qualifying in Tokyo with the leading score, only to lose control of the handles after just 10 seconds, falling chest-first onto the horse. He scored 13.200 and ended up seventh of the eight finalists.
Speaking about this morning’s event, Gymnastics Ireland chief executive, Ciarán Gallagher said: ‘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.
“The tight Covid protocols and response to any Covid related matter from the Japanese 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 and Gymnastics Ireland.”
Ireland’s interest still remains after Emma Slevin become the first Irish gymnast to qualify for the coveted all around finals of the World gymnastics championships. The 18-year-old placed 21st with a score of 50.165. The top 24 gymnasts in the world progress through to the AA final which will take place on Thursday at 9.55am Irish time.