‘Hardcore’ Joe Fraser braves pain to lead England to gold for team electric gymnastics


Joe Fraser, by all standards of medical advice, should be sitting on the couch with his feet up.

It’s only been five weeks since he tore his appendix and three since he broke his foot.

He certainly shouldn’t actually be driving a car, much less hurling himself into dizzying, gravity-defying spins.

However, it would take more than a second opinion to prevent this local lad from appearing in front of his home crowd in Birmingham.

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Fraser became world champion in 2019 and would be one of the faces of these Games, limping the athletes’ village in a protective airboat was not part of that best-laid plan.

But Fraser set aside excruciating pain to help England defend their team gymnastics title, as Canada and a shocked Cyprus rounded out the podium.

And his performance secured his place in four individual apparatus finals, where he will be favorites to add a few more gold medals against the odds.

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“I guess I’m just hardcore, I was determined that nothing would stop me from participating here,” he joked.

“After I ruptured my appendix, I worked so hard to get back in shape and then I broke my foot, that was probably one of the biggest lows of my career. I felt devastated and really felt sorry for everyone who touched me and supported my friends and family who bought tickets to be here in the crowd.

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Fraser also qualified in style for all four individual finals

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“I thought this wouldn’t be, but the thought that I wouldn’t be here made me push myself hard to prepare. I’ve had all these setbacks, but I just had to believe and I’m really proud By myself .

“To stand here as a Commonwealth champion with people I’ve trained with since I was ten years old, I can’t tell you what that feels like.

“This team has always supported me, they have always been there and without them we would not have been able to get here.”

Team England was dominant from start to finish

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Fraser – unable to compete in the floor or jump disciplines – joined forces with James Hall and Courtney Tulloch, teammates from four years ago, and Giarnni Regini-Moran and Jake Jarman to secure a team gold for England for the third consecutive Games .

And they will have a lot of interest at home in the apparatus final, with Fraser’s clash against Northern Ireland defending champion Rhys McClenaghan on the pommel horse being one of the highlights.

“You can’t help but be inspired when you see what Joe has done,” Hall said.

“If at any point I walk into the gym and have no motivation, all I have to do is think about Joe and he makes it possible.”

McClenaghan had been told he would not be able to defend his Commonwealth title after the International Gymnastics Federation ruled that the Northern Ireland team could not participate due to past performances for Ireland at world and European level.

It sparked a storm of protest, with Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland accusing the FIG of having “completely ignored” the Good Friday Agreement with its actions.

McClenaghan defeated two-time Olympic champion Max Whitlock in the Gold Coast four years ago and followed a few months later by winning the European title in Glasgow.

Now he’s got in the way of Fraser after taking the best qualifying score for Monday’s final.

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“I feel like I can add a full point to my score,” McClenaghan insisted.

“It’s still kind of a fresh new routine that I’m putting out there and the construction of it has changed over the past few months. I’m glad I can still get through it from start to finish and that’s what you want to see.

“I’m not sure if I felt extra pressure, but I always feel a certain level of pressure and I feel like that comes more from me than from the crowd watching me. I’ve done my job and I’m looking forward to the final.”

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