When 10-year-old Joe Fraser walked into Alexander Stadium for another day of leaps and somersaults, he was told a surprise awaited him. Hoping for a PlayStation 3, the mini athlete was stunned to hear he made the national team.
Over 10 years, seven gold medals and a Commonwealth Games victory later, the star gymnast returned to his childhood venue to brand his name in for good. Fraser has unveiled a golden plaque at Alexander Stadium, Perry Barr as part of Birmingham 2022’s ‘Golden Gateways’ campaign.
The project allows Team England athletes to display a golden plaque at their childhood training centre, venue or gym that greatly impacted their athletic journey. Over 60 athletes including swimmer Maisie Summers-Newton and cyclist Dame Laura Kenny chose their ‘Golden Gateways’ after Birmingham 2022.
The plaque symbolises the site as an athlete’s personal ‘gateway’ into the sport, and eventually a Commonwealth medal. Fraser’s plaque has a border decorated with cracked lines (similar to Birmingham 2022 medals), inner circle emblazoned with Fraser’s name and the Team England logo.
The plaque then reads: ‘This is their Golden Gateway where their Journey to Commonwealth success began.’ The plaque is bolted near the Gymnastics & Martial Arts Centre entrance.
Fraser, 23, said: “Its surreal, I came here as an eight or nine-year-old who just wanted to do gymnastics, because I loved the sport so much. To know the journey I have been on for last 15 to 20 years to become a Commonwealth champion is honestly surreal.
“I am going to be so proud walking in that gym every day seeing that plaque. It (Alexander Stadium) feels like home and I have spent many hours here, more than at home.
“I am very used to the people and I enjoy it, I am grateful I get to go here everyday. Without those progressions I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Fraser began his love for gymnastics at the Gymnastics & Martial Arts Centre (GMAC) at Alexander Stadium as a child. After attending Rio 2016 and supporting Max Whitlock who scored double gold, it was the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships where Fraser won Great Britain’s first gold on the parallel bars.
He also made history as the first black male to achieve this at the competition. Recently Fraser won three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games 2022, despite a ruptured appendix and a fractured foot.
He said: “Even before the Commonwealth Games I ruptured my appendix and fractured my foot two weeks before, to compete with such a huge achievement, nobody believed it was possible. I was really struggling and didn’t believe in myself, but I had an amazing team who believed in me.
“I knew I could do it just had to get my mind right, especially since it was a home games.”
The golden boy of Birmingham gymnastics has his sights set on Paris 2024, Victoria 2026 and many more championships. What advice does he have for young people who gaze at that golden plaque?
He said: “When I go to competitions I feel a responsibility to inspire that next generation, that’s why I put the hard work in this gym. Believe in your ability and never give up.”
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