Team Ireland in Tokyo: Rhys McClenaghan heartbreak and McIlroy misses out on bronze

olympics
Team Ireland In Tokyo: Rhys Mcclenaghan Heartbreak And Mcilroy Misses Out On Bronze
Despite the result, McClenaghan made history by becoming the first Irish gymnast to reach an Olympic final. Photo Credit: ©INPHO/James Crombie
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Digital Desk Staff

On what was billed as a potentially triumphant day for Team Ireland, turned out to be one of missed opportunities.

Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan came up short in the men's pommel horse final, finishing seventh.

He qualified with the joint top score alongside Chinese Taipei’s Chih Kai Le, but came off the apparatus early and missed out on a medal.

Team GB's Max Whitlock ended up taking gold with a score of 15.583, after being the first competitor to do their routine.

Chih Kai Lee came closest with a score of 15.4 winning the silver medal, while Japan’s Kazuma Kaya took bronze.

Despite the result, McClenaghan made history by becoming the first Irish gymnast to reach an Olympic final.

As the Irish Examiner reports, his performance came undone early in his routine, with McClenaghan losing his balance and falling off the pommel, thereby ending his medal chance.

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After composing himself for a few moments, with some words of advice from his coach Luke Carson, he soon climbed back up, but it was clear by then his confidence was rattled, and he narrowly avoided falling off a second time towards the end of his routine.

Nonetheless, he soldiered on executing his final few skills to perfection, dismounting well and handed a score of 13.100.

His score was a tally of the difficulty score of his routine and its execution, and while McClenaghan had opted for a 6.400 for the former as expected, his typically excellent execution was off-kilter, earning him just 6.700.

The performance was one that left him bitterly disappointed, given the calibre of performances he has consistently delivered in recent years.

In 2019 he won Ireland’s first ever medal at the World Championships, and in 2018 he won European and Commonwealth Games gold in the same event, but surgery on a torn labrum in his shoulder towards the end of that year led to McClenaghan rebuilding his technique from scratch together with long-time coach Luke Carson.

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Photo Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

Injuries came back to haunt him again in 2021, McClenaghan enduring bitter disappointment at the Europeans back in April when struggling with cartilage damage in his wrist, but he suggested on the build-up to the Olympics that such issues were long behind him.

Afterwards, speaking to RTÉ, McClenaghan put a brave face on his disappointment.

“I know that I’ll feel disappointment with this performance, but that’s OK, I feel like when I do feel disappointment, that’s when I’m more motivated than ever, I’m more hungry than ever.

"I’m definitely the type of person to turn a negative into a positive and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to leave this arena with this incredible experience, becoming an Olympian, becoming first Irish gymnast to be a Olympic finalist and that is something very special to me.”

Golf

In golf, Rory McIlroy shot a final day round of 67 to finish on -15 with six other players and throw the Olympic bronze medal place into a seven-man play-off in the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Tokyo

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All eyes then turned to the seven-man play-off for the bronze medal as Shane Lowry fell away after a disappointing final round of 71 that left him tied in 22nd place at 10-under par.

McIlroy with CT Pan, Colin Morikawa, Mito Pereira, Sebastian Munoz, Hideki Matsuyama and Paul Casey then went down the 18th hole, a fourball and a three ball with McIlroy playing with Casey and Matsuyama.

On the third hole McIlroy’s approach to eight feet could only give him par, and he too was eliminated with CT Pan going on to win the bronze medal for Taipei on the fourth play-off hole.

“I’ve being saying all day I’ve never tried so hard in my life to finish in third place,” said McIlroy afterwards. “It makes me even more determined going to Paris and trying to pick one (medal) up.

“Disappointing, going away here without any hardware."

Athletics

Team Ireland’s Michelle Finn and Eilish Flanagan were the first track athletes in action on Day 9 for Team Ireland, competing in the Women’s 3000m Steeplechase heats.

Flanagan produced the performance of a lifetime to shave six seconds off her personal best, with a time of 9.34.86 to finish 12th in her heat. Doing well to stay on her feet after a number of athletes fell in front of her, Flanganan battled to stay in contention throughout.

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Speaking after her new lifetime best, Flanagan said: “It really excites me for that to be my first performance on the world stage. It makes me believe a bit more that I belong there, so I’m looking forward to the next opportunity on a stage like that.”

A frustrating weekend for the Irish in Tokyo went from bad to worse on Sunday night as 400m hurdler Thomas Barr endured the worst kind of heartache – that of remorse, regret, and a lingering sense of what might have been.

His hopes of advancing now rest upon an appeal the Irish team management is lodging concerning potential infractions by two athletes in another heat, with a decision expected in the coming hours. If either of the athletes concerned are disqualified, Barr would advance to Tuesday’s final.

It's understood one potential infraction relates to a lane infringement, with the other concerning 'hooking', the process of athletes dragging the trail leg around the hurdle at a lower height than the barrier. Either one, if proven, would result in disqualification.

Technical officials in Tokyo will first have to review video evidence of the race in question, then determine if the Irish have grounds to officially lodge an appeal.

Boxing

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There was disappointment for Team Ireland boxer, Kurt Walker this morning as he lost his Men’s Feather quarter-final clash against Duke Regan (USA), by the finest of margins – a 3-2 split decision.

Regan took the better of the opening round, dictating the pace throughout, but Walker regrouped well in the break and came back strong in the second to level proceedings going into the final round.

An extremely closely-contested final round saw the two boxers evenly matched throughout, but Regan just pipped it in the end on a 3-2 split decision.

Speaking afterwards, Walker said: “I am so proud. It was so close. It was a good fight, and that’s the way it goes.”

Equestrian

It was a day of mixed results for the eventing team after today’s Cross Country performances as they lie in 8th position on a score of 161.00 heading into tomorrow’s final phase of Show Jumping.

Best of the Irish was Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue (SHBGB), who stormed around the track with an impressive clear round inside of the time allowed - one of only seven competitors to do so. O’Connor and the Irish-bred 12-year-old grey, head into the final Show Jumping phase tomorrow on their dressage score of 38.00 and in 20th place.

Speaking after the clear round, Austin said: “I am delighted with my horse’s performance, the horse was great. He seems to have recovered really well. He is a class horse. We will all enjoy the next phase now. We will get the horse recovered and myself recovered and hopefully come out and finish on a good note.”

Team members Sam Watson and Sarah Ennis both picked up faults on the tough track that nine competitors didn’t complete.

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