It was a heavyweight showdown riddled with adversity leading up to it, but Joe Fraser faltered after dethroning a brave Rhys McClenaghan to take gold on the pommel at the Commonwealth Games. The England gymnast pulled off a minor miracle at even being in Birmingham after overcoming a ruptured appendix and a broken foot in recent weeks, but McClenaghan was forced to jump through more hoops to defend the title he was aiming for won four years ago.
The Northern Irishman’s face wore a scowl, “disappointment, of course”, but the pride was quick to claim a silver medal, achieved weeks after defiing his sport’s governing body (FIG) after winning alongside team-mates Eamon in May Montgomery and Ewan McAteer had been distracted because he represents Ireland in international competition.
McClenaghan’s talent and refined style, upsetting three-time British Olympic gold medalist Max Whitlock in 2018, forced Fraser to roll the dice and embrace the pitfalls of a 6100-difficulty routine. But Fraser, the 2019 World Champion on parallel bars, demonstrated his versatility with impressive acceleration into a two-legged circle, snapping his wrists in and out of the handles while gracefully stretching his hips. The final piece of the puzzle was maintaining his focus; A skilful transition to a pirouette on the descent triggered a fist bump. And the 14.833 score would prove too much for McClenaghan, despite what he later described as a “flawless” first half for the routine.
A minor slip in a free skate at just 5,600 difficulty, despite an appeal, left the Northern Irishman unable to threaten Fraser, but 14,133 was enough to surpass Canadian Jayson Rampersad for Silver and his motivation before opportunities at the European and World Championships to reignite later this year.
“It’s a testament to the hard work I’ve put into this sport. I can make a mistake but get away with a medal,” he said. “I’m proud of it and of this medal, we didn’t even want to go there.
“Me and two other teammates reached the final and took this chance. A historic medal. Just the second medal for Northern Ireland in gymnastics, I look back on that medal when we almost didn’t go to the Commonwealth Games.
“It was tough, someone told me I’m not Northern Irish, it was tough taking it on board but we’ve been training it through and the training shows today.”
Further battles with Fraser and Whitlock add even more excitement to McClenaghan after realizing the impressive standard it takes to reign at the top.
“Some people might think I fell off after winning in 2018, but that’s just how gymnastics works, sometimes wins come easy, sometimes they don’t. If Joe didn’t compete I would have gold wrapped around my neck but I’m glad he did. I want the toughest competition in the world.
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After Jake Jarman’s third gold medal at those games, England went on to claim three more gold medals with Courtney Tulloch and Georgia-Mae Fenton defending their titles on rings and uneven bars to join Fraser on the podium.
Bouncing off the electrifying atmosphere at Arena Birmingham, Tulloch explained how he brought the “firepower” to Team England after posting 14,400 to resist a strong performance from silver medalist Sokratis Pilakouris, carried by a boisterous contingent of Cypriot supporters became.
But Fenton drew the loudest applause of the afternoon, preventing a famous hat-trick for Australia’s Georgia Godwin, who had already collected gold in the all-around and vault.
It leaves England with seven gold medals in gymnastics and 10 medals overall. Australia is second with just two gold medals and four overall, while Canada has won seven medals without a gold so far.
Shannon Archer was also delighted after making history for Scotland with her first-ever medal in artistic gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games. A bronze medal sparked emotional celebrations for an achievement that could inspire a generation.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/commonwealth-games/gymnastics-joe-fraser-rhys-mcclenaghan-pommel-b2135924.html Joe Fraser angers Rhys McClenaghan as pommel heavyweights overcome immense odds