Gymnastics world champion Joe Fraser feared a ruptured appendix might have cost him his dream of Commonwealth Games glory in his home city this month.
The Birmingham 23-year-old, who has been one of the poster boys for the Games since scooping parallel bars gold in Stuttgart in 2019, was rushed to hospital in late May after complaining of a pain in his stomach.
After a race against time to get his training schedule back on track, Fraser believes he is once again equipped to pursue multiple medal opportunities in front of massed ranks of friends and family.
“It was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced and it was made even harder knowing what I should have been doing in the gym during that time period,” Fraser told the PA news agency.
“I had to take it quite steadily but I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made. I’ve overcome a difficult challenge and I just know even getting to the Games is an amazing achievement.”
Fraser, who made his international debut at the European Championships in Cluj in 2017, missed out on a place in the England team for the Gold Coast Games in Australia four years ago after suffering a dislocated ankle.
Fraser watched the now-retired Nile Wilson scoop five medals including three golds, and is now in a position to emulate his former team-mate with genuine chances in the team and all-around disciplines, as well as his favoured parallel bars and high bar apparatus.
“I was rehabbing during the last Commonwealth Games and it gave me motivation going forward. I think those are the kinds of challenges that have made me the athlete I am today,” he added.
It is a mark of Fraser’s increased stature in his sport that he expressed disappointment despite reaching the parallel bars final in the Tokyo Olympics, where he finished eighth and last.
But Fraser insists he does not feel the weight of expectation that comes with an overdue chance to compete at the top level in front of those who have facilitated his journey through the sport.
“I’ve always loved the idea of competing in front of a Birmingham crowd, and knowing I’ll have friends and family and teachers in the crowd watching what I can do just makes me want to train harder.
“I’ve lived in Birmingham my whole life. From primary school and secondary school teachers, to students in my class who didn’t understand why I was taking so much time off, it’s a great opportunity to show them what I’ve been working towards over the last 20 years.”
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