Rhys McClenaghan: Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games champion in the nationality row with the International Gymnastics Federation | News News

Northern Irish trio Rhys McClenaghan, Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer have all been banned by the FIG from competing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer because they have represented Ireland at other tournaments.

Last update: 28/05/22 09:01

Rhys McClenaghan won his gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games as a gymnast from Northern Ireland

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has said Northern Irishman Rhys McClenaghan may have to give up Irish nationality to defend his Commonwealth Games title in Birmingham.

McClenaghan, Northern Ireland’s only gold medalist at the 2018 Games, was banned – along with teammates Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer – because they represented Ireland at major tournaments where Northern Ireland do not participate.

Commonwealth Games NI claim the FIG “completely ignored” the Good Friday deal, while McClenaghan himself accused them of not understanding “Northern Ireland’s unique situation”.

The FIG outlined two potential solutions – one being for all three athletes to relinquish their Irish Gymnastics License and the other for the Commonwealth Games Federation to remove the affected gymnastics competitions from the FIG calendar.

Gymnastics is the only sport to cause such problems, with much of the 90-strong Northern Ireland squad in Birmingham also representing Ireland at international level – a normal occurrence after the peace deal was signed in 1998.

However, the Republic of Ireland does not participate in the Commonwealth Games and has done so since the 1940s.

McClenaghan, 22, said: “I was born in Northern Ireland, my residence is in Northern Ireland and I represented and won gold for Northern Ireland at the last Commonwealth Games. the feeling that the FIG does not understand the seriousness of the Belfast agreement.

“All other sports include eligibility for Northern Irish athletes in accordance with the Commonwealth Games.”

McClenaghan represented Ireland at the delayed 2020 Olympics (PA Images)

McClenaghan represented Ireland at the delayed 2020 Olympics (PA Images)

In a statement to Sky Sports News, the FIG described the main rationale for the decision as “a violation of FIG statutes and rules”.

The statement adds: “Gymnastics participating in any FIG-sanctioned international competition must hold a valid FIG license from the National Federation they represent.”

Registered Irish gymnasts were cleared to compete for Northern Ireland at the 2018 Games, when McClenaghan won pommel horse gold in Australia.

Sky Sports

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