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 20-year old gymnast, who will compete on the pommel horse at next year’s rescheduled Games, is relieved that the uncertainty which hung over the Tokyo Olympics in recent weeks has been put to bed.
The decision taken by the IOC, according to the Down native, is a weight lifted for the many thousands of athletes who are unable to train properly because of Covid-19 and the restricted lifestyle the virus has brought about.
But although a new date on the calendar must now be circled and worked toward, McClenaghan is adamant his vision remains the same.
I am still going to be that confident athlete going into the Games next year and will have the same goal of coming out of there with a gold medal.
“Nothing has changed in that sense,” he added.
“In fact, I will be even more prepared with the year delay and I’ll be even more ready to take on the challenge,” says the 2019 world bronze medalist. “I am glad that everybody will be 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,” he said.
The European and Commonwealth Games gold medal winner counts himself “privileged” that his training routine has not been interrupted by the spread of the coronavirus here in Ireland.
He continues to enjoy daily access to the indoor arena at the Sport Ireland campus, but yesterday’s decision means that even if the locks go up at Abbotstown in the days ahead, there will be plenty of time to get back on the horse ahead of the 2021 Games.
“That is the pressure that has been lifted off my shoulders, 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.
“Of course it is not ideal the Games must go back, but it shows that everyone is together in the fight against coronavirus.
“It is comforting to know everyone in the world is in this together.”
However, Katie Mullan, captain of the Irish women’s hockey team, said she and her team-mates are “gutted” by the decision.
“As players, we are gutted with the announcement to postpone the Games as our excitement has been building. However, we totally understand why this decision has been made.
What matters most is players’ health and wellbeing, as well as our families and friends, and we hope everyone is staying safe and healthy at this difficult time.
Irish head coach Sean Dancer added: “The decision to postpone the Games not only puts athletes welfare first, but also the welfare of much wider communities and countries.
“These are unprecedented times, and while incredibly stressful for so many, the decision to postpone the Games is one we support.”