Express & Star

Focused Fraser is no ordinary Joe

Growing up as a kid with the potential to be an elite athlete – Joe Fraser spent a lot of time out of school.


So did a lot of his talented friends.

Leeds' footballer Tyler Roberts, Birmingham's Jonathan Leko and Ross County's Yan Dhanda were all in Fraser's year when he attended Sandwell Academy, in West Bromwich.

And the four of them would often spend time out of class to attend training sessions designed to harness their talent.

For Roberts, Leko and Dhanda, future footballing stars who were all with Albion's academy at the time, other pupils could understand why they were skipping lessons to make the short trip to The Hawthorns.

For Fraser, it was a bit different – and that is why the gymnast is so excited to be competing at the Commonwealth Games in his home city of Birmingham and at the World Championships that are taking place later this year in Liverpool.

"What's really exciting for me is that everyone I know will be there watching me compete," said the 23-year-old with a beaming smile.

"Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time out of school doing training camps and competitions.

"Nobody really understood where I was going or what I was doing.

"The school was opposite The Hawthorns so when I was spending time out for gymnastics, a lot of my friends were spending time out for football.

"We had Tyler Roberts, we had Yan Dhanda, Jonathan Leko and a few other players that are in the Championship now.

"The school itself was really understanding. And I feel like the great network I had there has really helped me.

"So many people have helped me on the way.

"And these competitions are a great opportunity for all those people to see first hand what me and my friends and family have been working so hard for behind the scenes. It’s really exciting."

The truth is all Fraser's friends are now well aware why he was popping out of school.

In Germany back in 2019, the artistic gymnast became a world champion after winning gold on the high bars.

In doing so, Fraser became the first black Briton to win a world gold medal.

That success combined with his talent and smiley, happy-go-lucky, nature has made him a role model for children up and down the country – a responsibility he is embracing.

"It’s been very inspiring for a lot of people," Fraser said on his success in Stuttgart, three years ago.

"There are people that have inspired me over the years who are now my team mates. Max Whitlock and Lewis Smith who I admired from a very young age.

"For me, it is amazing to feel like I am the person that kids are looking up to.

"And it puts my head in a different perspective when I'm competing because I want them to believe in themselves as much as I believe in them."

Fraser has been somersaulting since he was small, his mum taking him to his local gymnastics club at the age of five to stop him from 'breaking myself or something in the house'.

The 23-year-old has been made an ambassador for the World Championships that will take place in Liverpool from October 29 to November 6.

First of all, though, is the small matter of a Commonwealth Games in his home city. And Fraser is determined to enjoy it.

"There is a different buzz in the gym," he admitted.

"Everyone wants to be there. Everyone wants to be a part of that journey so we all have tunnel vision.

"You can't help but spend an extra 10 minutes on your landings, on the rings or on the higher bars because you know how crucial those practice sessions are.

"I'm doing everything I can to perform at my best and I'm determined to enjoy every moment.

"Being on a world-class stage competing – that's something that doesn’t come around very often. But to be competing in my home city, it's incredible not many athletes get that opportunity.

"So whenever I get on that stage you will see me smiling and enjoying myself because I know how special these moments are."

Fraser admits he has become a different athlete ever since his gold medal success in 2019.

"For me, that competition was a really big stepping stone in terms of my development as an athlete," he added.

"You always believe in your ability. But when you actually perform like that on the highest level, it makes you believe in yourself even more.

"It made me feel I can push and get better. It gave me the belief I can produce harder routines, it made me more confident.

"It has made me realise I can go to tournaments where the best guys are and challenge.

"Becoming world champion is something that I always wanted to do. So to do it was a dream come true.

"Getting back on that world stage, in Birmingham and then Liverpool as well, will be another dream come true for sure.

"You always believe in your ability. But when you actually perform like that on the highest level, it makes you believe in yourself even more."