McClenaghan retains European pommel horse title

Rhys McClenaghan wins gold at European Championships
Rhys McClenaghan claimed his third European pommel horse title in Rimini [Getty Images]

Ireland's Rhys McClenaghan produced a masterclass on the pommel horse to retain his European Championship title in Rimini, Italy.

The Ards gymnast holds on to the title that he won 12 months ago in Turkey, while claiming a third continental triumph overall after taking gold in Glasgow in 2018.

The hugely impressive McClenaghan posted a score of 15.300, well ahead of Dutch gymnast Loran de Munck, who took silver with a mark of 14.933.

All-around champion Marios Georgiou from Cyprus was third with a score of 14.800.

McClenaghan will now begin his final preparations for the Olympic Games in Paris in July.

The final was missing Britain's double Olympic champion Max Whitlock because of injury but that didn't take away from McClenaghan's brilliant performance.

The 24 year-old watched on as three of his competitors fell during their respective routines, including the highest ranked qualifier for the final, Oleg Verniaiev from Ukraine.

De Munck set the mark for McClenaghan, who was the eighth of nine gymnasts to perform.

Despite the pressure, the eventual victor rose to the challenge superbly. His execution mark of 8.800 was the best in the competition and his victory was emphatic.

McClenaghan has improved with each of his three competition performances this season.

He now has three European titles to go with two World Championships and a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

Only one major title remains for the gymnastics 'grand slam', and the battle for pommel horse Olympic gold in three months' time promises to be one of the highlights of the Paris Games.