HAVING thrust himself to the top of the global gymnastics ladder with world gold in 2019, Tokyo-bound Joe Fraser had to utilise all his creative nous through the Covid-19 pandemic in order to realise his Olympic dream. 

The 22-year-old will make his first appearance on sport’s greatest stage at this summer’s rescheduled Games, after being named alongside Max Whitlock, Giarnni Regini-Moran and James Hall in Team GB’s four-man men’s artistic gymnastics squad. 

Following team silver as part of the GB setup at the 2018 European Championships, Fraser truly announced himself to the sport with individual parallel bars world gold a year later, becoming the first British gymnast to win a medal in the discipline. 

Such momentum was halted by the impending pandemic just a handful of months later, but the Birmingham native - who won European pommel horse bronze on his competition comeback last month - found ways of maintaining his form and his bid for Olympic selection. 

Fraser, who is one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, said: “I had 13 weeks out of the gym, which was the longest period since I was five years old.

“It was difficult at first but I managed to put a pommel horse in my parents’ bedroom, and I had a set of rings that I tied around a tree at a reservoir. I did what I could do to keep gymnastics fit, and I reaped the benefits when I finally got back into the gym. 

“It took a while to get fully back up to speed, but now we’re here and I just can’t wait for Tokyo. I’m extremely happy and proud to have been selected - it’s been 17 years in the making.” 

The support Fraser gets from UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme allows him to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support. 

Inspired by the success of four-time medallist Louis Smith and double gold winner Whitlock in the Olympic arena Fraser is now preparing himself to line-up alongside the latter, with hopes of adding to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997. 

He added: “My earliest Olympic memory is watching Louis win bronze in 2008, and I was able to go out to Rio five years ago as part of Team GB’s ambitions programme. 

“Being able to watch the likes of Max and train alongside him has been incredible. He’s got so much experience and he’s helped me develop hugely. 

“Guys like him made me believe I could achieve great things if I trained hard, and now - being in a team with Max, Giarnni and James - I can’t wait to see what we achieve in Tokyo.” 

No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30 million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo