Irish Olympian Rhys McClenaghan is on track to retain Commonwealth Games gold after advancing to the pommel horse final

RHYS McCLENAGHAN is on track to retain his Commonwealth Games gold medal after booking his spot in the pommel horse final.

The 23-year-old Northern Irishman, who represented Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, entered the games to defend his 2018 title.

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Rhys McClenaghan is on track to retain his Commonwealth Games gold medal1 credit
Irish Olympian through to pommel horse final

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Irish Olympian through to pommel horse final1 credit

And he’s on track to get there after qualifying for the final with an impressive performance on Friday.

Her score of 14.350 sealed her passage to the pommel horse final, which was to be held on Monday.

Commenting on his performance, McClenaghan said: “I’m quite happy with the performance but I know I can improve a lot and that’s exciting for me.

“I’m looking forward to Monday’s finals. Having the crowd there makes the end of a routine a little more exciting with the crowd bursting around you.

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“It’s still a bit of a new routine that I’m putting in place, so I’m happy to still be able to follow this routine from start to finish.

“That’s exactly what you want to see, that consistency!”

He will be joined in the final by fellow Northern Ireland athletes Ewan McAteer and Eamon Montgomery.

Rhys and Eamon will compete in the Pommel and Floor finals on Monday, while Ewan will compete in the Vault final the following day.

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Ahead of his Commonwealth Games departure on Friday, McClenaghan cited another former Irish Olympian as one of his heroes.

Katie Taylor, who won gold in London in 2012, has established herself as one of Ireland’s greatest sportswomen.

In late April, she extended her undefeated professional boxing record to 21-0 by retaining her undisputed world lightweight titles against Amanda Serrano.

The win, which came in the main event of a sold-out Madison Square Garden, was his finest yet.

McClenaghan watched that fight from start to finish and revealed he was inspired by it.

He said: “Honestly, I was very emotional because of the magnitude of the event – it was an incredible stage and her victory was an incredible achievement for her.

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“Katie has always been supportive of my journey and everything I try to achieve, and that’s the lovely thing about the sporting community in Ireland: we all support each other.

“We represent our country together as athletes – there’s a lot of respect for me and I’m really grateful to Katie for cheering me on.”

Naomi C. Amerson