Rhys McClenaghan vows to be 'even more prepared' for 2021 Olympics

The 20-year old Down native who will compete on the pommel horse at the Olympics, an event for which he is the current European champion, is relieved that the uncertainty which hung over the Games in recent weeks has been put to bed once and for all.

Rhys McClenaghan vows to be 'even more prepared' for 2021 Olympics

One of Ireland’s Olympic medal favourites, Rhys McClenaghan, says the postponement of the Tokyo Games will leave him even more prepared in his bid for gold.

The world bronze medal gymnast has this afternoon welcomed the IOC decision to defer the Tokyo Games until next year.

The rescheduled 2021 date has yet to be finalised, but the IOC have stated that the Games will proceed no later than the summer of next year.

The 20-year old Down native who will compete on the pommel horse at the Olympics, an event for which he is the current European champion, is relieved that the uncertainty which hung over the Games in recent weeks has been put to bed once and for all.

“The decision is the best decision for all athletes, for spectators who want to see the competitions, and essentially for the whole Olympic Games. It is the best decision in the current circumstances,” McClenaghan told the Irish Examiner this afternoon.

"Of course it is not ideal the Games must go back, but it shows that everyone is together in the fight against the coronavirus and it is comforting to know everyone in the world is in this together.”

The 2018 Commonwealth Games pommel horse gold medalist describes himself as “privileged” in light of the fact that his training routine has not been interrupted by Covid-19 and the restricted lifestyle the virus has brought about.

McClenaghan continues to enjoy daily access to the indoor arena at the Sport Ireland campus, but today’s announcement means that even if the locks go up at Abbotstown in days ahead, there will be plenty of time to get back on the horse (pun intended) ahead of the 2021 Games.

That is the pressure that has been lifted off my shoulder, and the shoulders of every other athlete in the world.

“People’s health is being put first, as it should be. That should always be the priority. I don’t think any athlete should stress about staying at home and keeping healthy, and making sure those around them stay healthy.”

And while the date of his Olympic debut has shifted, the goal remains the same.

“The mentality stays the same. I am still going to be that confident athlete going into the Games next year and I will have the same goal of coming out of there with a gold medal. Nothing has changed in that sense. In fact, I will be even more prepared with the year delay and I’ll be even more ready to take on the challenge.

“I am glad that everybody is on the same playing field now. It will be a fair competition when we do all come together next year. There will be nothing questioned on the day in terms of an athlete's preparation and were they in any way hindered like they are right now.

“If it had gone ahead this year, irrespective of who won gold, there would have been question marks because a lot of athletes wouldn’t have been able to prepare as well as they could. That won’t be the case next year.”

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