Rhys McClenaghan qualifies in first place for European pommel horse final

The 21-year-old will fancy his chances of a title defence after Max Whitlock crashed out

File photo of Rhys McClenaghan during the World Championships in 2019. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

File photo of Rhys McClenaghan during the World Championships in 2019. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

 

Rhys McClenaghan looks poised to defend his title at the European Gymnastics Championships, qualifying in first place for Saturday’s pommel horse final, while one of his main rivals Max Whitlock crashed out.

In his first competition since October 2019, the 21-year-old went to the championships in Basel, Switzerland under some pressure yet duly delivered, his score of 14.766 well clear of Britain’s Nathan Joshua, the next best of the eight qualifiers with his 14.533.

His British team mate Whitlock, who won Olympic gold in 2016 and has 31 championship medals next to his name, fell during his routine and ended up 43rd of the 101 entrants.

“Lots of room for improvement, but we got the job done for today,” said McClenaghan whose final set for early Saturday afternoon.

Following on from Emma Slevin on Wednesday, Adam Steele also enjoyed an excellent competition competing on all six of the men’s apparatus and finished in 20th position with a score of 79.731; in doing so he also makes history by securing Ireland’s first place in a senior men’s All-Around top24 European Final - both those finals set for Friday.

“To have three gymnasts through to finals at the European Championships is a superb sporting achievement for Gymnastics Ireland & Ireland as a sporting nation, said Gymnastics Ireland CEO Ciaran Gallagher.

“Rhys did what he does best on Pommel Horse with his qualification secured for the Pommel Final in 1st place and Adam pulled out one of his best-ever competition performances to secure his first slot in a senior All-Around European Final.”

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