Rhys McClenaghan has always been one of the world’s best gymnasts, but his form this year has been at an all-time high. He’s had some eye-catching wins over the past couple of months that have put him in the limelight and brought him international recognition. And to top it all off, RTE Sports confirmed this week that they’ve named McClenaghan as their ‘Sportsperson of the Year’.

McClenaghan: ‘This means the world to me’

Since 1985, it has been RTE Sports’ custom to recognize and reward the finest athletes and sporting teams that have achieved excellence and brought pride and honor to the nation of Ireland. However, of all these awards, the Sport Person of the Year has gained the most traction, as only the very best athletes have ever achieved this accolade.

And that is why, when McClenaghan beat boxer Katie Taylor and Irish Rugby international Johnny Sexton and was pronounced as the winner on Saturday night, his first words were: ‘This means the world to me.’

“I can’t believe I’m holding this in my hands. It’s amazing,” he added.

He went on to state how incredible it is for an Irish gymnast to win world titles, something that has never been done before, and how proud he is to be able to do it. He also credited the team for his accomplishment, saying that while it is an individual sport, there is a team behind them as individual athletes, and it’s amazing that he has that support from Gymnastics Ireland and everyone at Sport Ireland.

“It all works towards that ultimate goal to bring home medals for the country, and hopefully we can go one further at the Olympic Games in Paris,” McClenaghan continued.

2023 was a great year for the 24-year-old Irish gymnast, who not only won a second European pommel horse gold medal in Antalya but also successfully defended his title at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Belgium six months later.

Interview with Belfast Telegraph

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph following the ceremony, McClenaghan said that winning the award was an honor and that he was genuinely proud to be named among the legendary athletes who were also nominated.

He added that even after he ends his career, it will always be something he thinks back on.

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