Luke Carson, coach to history-making Commonwealth Games gold medallist Rhys McClenaghan, has been awarded the title of High Performance Coach of the Year by Sport Northern Ireland at its 2018 SportMaker Awards.

Luke has overseen the meteoric rise of 19-year-old gymnast Rhys to the top of the sport, culminating in an incredible year of successes. In April of this year the young sports star made history when he took gold on the pommel horse at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, Team Northern Ireland’s first ever gymnastics gold medal. This was soon followed up with more gold medal glory in the World Cup in Turkey in July, and more history-making in August when Rhys became Northern Ireland’s first European gold gymnast after triumphing at the European Games in Glasgow.

As well as Luke’s formidable partnership with Rhys, he also has enjoyed success with other up-and-coming athletes, with three of his young gymnasts achieving selection for British Gymnastics GB Development Squads this year.

Sport NI’s SportMaker Awards recognise the contribution of the local sporting working. The High Performance Coach award recognises coaches working with athletes at the highest level of performance in sport, who have demonstrated innovative practice leading to player-centred development and national or international success.

It was presented to Luke by Sport NI’s Performance Systems Manager Alan Curran during a training session with Rhys at the pair’s base at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

Reacting to his win, Luke Carson said:

“2018 was a phenomenal year and it’s a really lovely feeling to win the award. People don’t often get a chance to see the behind the scenes side of what we do as coaches. It’s a bit like the iceberg theory where people only see the tip of the iceberg but they don’t see the 90% that lies beneath the surface and that’s the background work involved in coaching in this context. So it really is great to be recognised for that.”

Paying tribute to his coach, Rhys McClenaghan added:

“Quite simply, Luke inspires me to do more than even I think I can. I aim very high, but Luke aims even higher. If I think I can make a final, Luke believes I can medal. If I think I can medal, Luke believes I can win gold. He gets me to entertain possibilities that stretch the limits of my beliefs.”

Congratulating Luke on his award, Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said:

“The whole of Northern Ireland has been thrilled and inspired by Rhys McClenaghan’s outstanding successes over the last twelve months – he has been an incredible ambassador for Northern Ireland sport on the world stage. However, behind every great athlete lies a great coach or coaches whose talent, dedication and guidance lay the foundation for success, through physical development, technical expertise and mental support.

“The SportMaker Awards are all about shining a spotlight on the outstanding members of the sporting workforce we have here in Northern Ireland, the people working in the background. That Rhys chose to nominate Luke for this award demonstrates how highly he values Luke’s coaching, and the pair’s incredible accomplishments are clear evidence of why Luke has won the High Performance Coach award. On behalf of Sport NI, I would like to congratulate Luke on his award, and look forward to seeing him and Rhys enjoy further athletic successes in the years to come.”

Pictured are Sport NI’s Performance Systems Manager Alan Curran, Luke Carson and Rhys McClenaghan.