RHYS McClenaghan’s preparations for the Olympic Games in Paris will be done on his doorstep in Newtownards.

The defending pommel horse World and European champion has been based at Sports Ireland’s National Gymnastics Training Centre in Dublin since 2018, but the 23 year-old is back in familiar settings as he goes in search of Olympic glory next year, with the launch of a new state-of-the-art facility in his hometown.

A project which has been ten years in the making for McClenaghan’s coach Luke Carson, the Origin Gymnastics centre at the Ards Blair Mayne Wellbeing and Leisure Complex was officially unveiled earlier this week and has been described as a ‘dream’ by local hero McClenaghan, who bought a house in the area a number of months ago.

“It’s a dream because this is where it all started when I was six years old and it means I can kind of start my life outside of the gym as well,” he told BBC Northern Ireland.

“Luke was striving for his dreams of opening a gymnastics club and wherever Luke goes, I’ll follow him because he’s just as much a part of the success as I am. It’s exciting to be back in gymnastics in my hometown.

“There were some lonely times in that gym in Dublin when it was just myself, although the numbers then did start to come in.

“What I’m most excited about is having a younger generation come through and follow my footsteps, surpassing my achievements and just seeing people enjoying the sport of gymnastics as much as I have throughout my life,” added the two-time Commonwealth medallist.

“It’s about giving them that opportunity and that facility to actually come in here and practise gymnastics. I want people peering through the windows, seeing gymnastics and seeing me prepare for an Olympic Games.”