Gymnast Joe Fraser on lockdown, Tokyo Olympics dreams and being able to train again

By Emma Paton, SSN & Olympics reporter

Last Updated: 15/05/2020, 15:09 GMT

Joe Fraser
Image: Joe Fraser is thrilled at the prospect of resuming group training

"This is the longest time I've had out of the gym since I was five years old. It's embedded in me. The sport just means so much to me."

As sport in the UK gradually reopens its doors, world champion gymnast and Sky Sports Scholar Joe Fraser is relishing the chance to get his Olympic dreams back on track.

Professional athletes can return to group training, if social distancing is maintained and safety requirements met, in what the government has called a "milestone" moment for sport's return.

"It's great news," Fraser told Sky Sports News. "We're all very happy about it, we just need to make sure the necessary precautions are made to make sure everyone is safe and it's a safe way for us to come back.

"There's usually around five of us [in the gym], and my coach Lee, so it will be good to get the team back together. There's a good atmosphere and as you can imagine we're very competitive!

Joe Fraser

"Honestly, I can't wait to get back to training, this is the longest amount of time I've had out of the gym since I was five years old. It's obviously something that's embedded in me, the sport means so much to me and to not be able to do it the way that I want to has just been really hard."

Fraser was the breakthrough star of last year's World Gymnastics championships. Barely known beyond his Birmingham training base, Fraser won gold in a dramatic parallel bars final which catapulted him onto the big stage.

Great Britain's youngest world champion in the sport, he has his sights firmly on gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, and the postponement has taken a while to come to terms with.

"Now I've had time to reflect, I'm OK, but at first I was devastated," Fraser added.

"I've had a countdown in my room for a very long time - it went from 85 days to 450 days. That was hard to process in my mind at first but having time to reflect and think about the positives, it gives me more time to get better on certain apparatus and make my all-around score that I can put towards the team better, I feel like it can be a positive."

Joe Fraser won gold on the parallel bars at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in 2019
Image: Fraser won gold on the parallel bars at the World Championships in Germany in 2019

It's not only given Fraser time to perfect his craft, but time to work on his ultimate aim of getting his very own signature move. Simone Biles - the star of gymnastics - has four different skills named after her and included in gymnastics' rulebook.

"It's been hard because the apparatus I want to test my skills on - I haven't got here at home, but I've spent time watching videos of the skills - or think of new ones I could do.

"My coach said to me when I was 12 that any of us that get a skill in the code, he'll get a tattoo of the skill so I've been trying to get this skill since then!"

Joe is a figurehead of the new #PresentForPounds challenge, a fundraising campaign launched by British Gymnastics for NHS Charities Together.

Fans are encouraged to post photos or videos 'presenting' - the move performed at the start and finish of a gymnastics routine using #PresentForPounds. British Gymnastics has vowed to match donations, up to a maximum of £50,000.