Luke Strong is a five-time national trampoline champion and World Championship silver medallist, but coaching Jamie Carragher could be his biggest challenge yet! Find out what happened when they met up with Sky Sports' Mark McAdam for a new 'I'm Game' episode for Rainbow Laces…
Saturday 12 December 2020 07:08, UK
He's used to being rated out of 10 for his performances on the pitch - but how would Jamie Carragher score in a trampoline challenge?
In a special new episode of the 'I'm Game' series, the Liverpool legend and Sky Sports pundit travels across the city and outside of his comfort zone for a tutorial at the city's Trampoline Academy.
His coach for the day is Luke Strong, one of Britain's leading gymnasts and a World Championship silver medallist, who sets Carragher three challenges that will test his aerial abilities like never before.
It's all in support of Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign, currently receiving its annual activation across sport, supported by Sky Sports as a member of TeamPride.
Earlier this year, and for the first time publicly, Luke spoke about being bisexual and how he found a supportive environment in gymnastics, having endured instances of anti-LGBT bullying during his schooldays.
"I shared my story in the hope that younger kids growing up who are getting abuse at school and getting nasty messages can see that it gets better and you're not always going to be stuck in that situation," explains the 27-year-old.
"If it helps one person, then it's worth putting it out there and telling everyone."
For Carra's 'I'm Game' challenge, Luke sets three tasks...
Despite Carra's initial concerns - "I think you've got the wrong fella!" - he limbers up and agrees to give it a go...
Meanwhile, in between the challenges, Carra and host Mark McAdam sit down for a socially-distanced chat on the mats with Luke to learn more about how he became a gymnast despite growing up in a football-mad city like Liverpool.
Luke admits he always felt disconnected from football, as it was something where he didn't think he would fit in. Instead, he fell into a different friendship group and consequently into trampolining, where he excelled. "When I was a kid, I didn't get into the sport thinking that it was ever going to lead to anything. I don't think anyone does that.
"I turned up, enjoyed it, and I'm still here 16 years later."
I came out 10 years ago to friends and family and they've been so supportive... I feel lucky because I know not everybody has that experience when they come out.
Carra asks Luke what he makes of the ongoing conversation about the lack of LGBT+ representation in men's professional football. What would it mean for a gay or bi male player to come out publicly?
"No one should ever feel the pressure to say who they are to anyone - it's your business and nobody's else's," says Luke.
"It's a difficult one because for so many people, a footballer coming out would be so helpful. A lot of people in the community feel that football is a sport for straight people."
Luke says he has received some derogatory comments in the past on social media, adding that being bi still carries a degree of stigma and is often misunderstood, even within the LGBT+ community itself.
However, by raising awareness around inclusion such as through the Rainbow Laces campaign, he believes the situation is improving and that he found his chat with Carra "refreshing".
Carra is hopeful that young players today in the men's game who are gay or bi will find their football spaces much more accepting compared to his heyday in the 1990s and 2000s.
"When I grew up, there wasn't anyone gay or bisexual at school - it wasn't something you spoke about," he says.
"Times have changed in the last 10 or 15 years. As you get older, wiser, more mature, you understand things a lot more as well.
"A lot of it is education, and understanding what people go through and what they're feeling."
With Carra having learned a lot about trampolining, all that's left is for judge Luke to deliver his assessment - and there's an extra twist that might just help to boost Carra's final score…
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign. If you'd like to help inspire others in sport by sharing your own story of being LGBT+ or an ally, please contact us here.