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'I called my mum and burst out crying. I couldn’t get one sentence out apart from 'I’m going to the Olympics''

Lockdown has provided brilliant young gymnast with time to reappraise

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‘We are doing things I hadn’t been doing during the lockdown so I’m sore every day. But I love that feeling because I’m getting stronger.’ Photos: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

‘We are doing things I hadn’t been doing during the lockdown so I’m sore every day. But I love that feeling because I’m getting stronger.’ Photos: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

‘We are doing things I hadn’t been doing during the lockdown so I’m sore every day. But I love that feeling because I’m getting stronger.’ Photos: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Rhys McClenaghan had already perfected the back flip on the trampoline in his parents' back garden in Newtownards before he went to his first gymnastics class at the age of six. By the time he was 11 he was able to do the triple Russian, on one handle, the hardest skill on the pommel horse. But his journey to being Ireland's first world-class gymnast was still in its infancy.

"I always knew I had the potential but I was rough around the edges and wasn't doing the skills very cleanly," says McClenaghan.

After Luke Carson became his coach in 2014, he made him spend six months re-learning all the basics skills. "I did resent it but I knew it had to be done."