British gymnast Joe Fraser emphasizes importance of mental health
"I've had, and everyone has had, moments when they feel like they're struggling and they're finding it hard to keep going for something they enjoy,” he said in an interview with Sky Sports.
One such time came recently as his lifelong dream of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games moved a year further away.
"Honestly, it's a very weird situation to be in," Fraser said. "I've had a countdown in my room for Tokyo for a year-and-a-half, so I've been used to seeing those days go down and then all of a sudden, it's gone up by a year. It's crazy!”
Stunning gold in Stuttgart, raised expectations
That’s also how one could describe Fraser’s 2019.
The 21-year-old Briton came out of nowhere – almost literally – to win the gold medal on the parallel bars at October’s World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Before that historic win, Fraser’s biggest achievement was a silver medal with his team at the 2018 Europeans.
“The first thing Max [Whitlock] said to me was, 'you'll never get used to hearing that you're the World champion,' and he was so right!” said Frasier.
Now with World gold secured, he’s hoping that’s just the first of many trips to the global podium, identifying medals in the team, all-around and parallel bars finals as his Tokyo dream.
"If you'd have asked me 12 months ago my aims for Tokyo, they would have probably been pretty different. But I feel the way my training has been going and the competitions I've delivered in, I feel like these are realistic goals,” he said in the interview.
Ready to get back to work
Fraser is keenly aware that there is much to do – and uncertainty as well, as he has yet to resume training.
"Right now, they're just trying to figure out the safest way we can get back,” the Birmingham-born gymnast explained. “So at the moment, I'm still doing what I can at home, and I'm just trying to remain positive.”
He also knows that there are likely to be good days and bad days as the new countdown in his room ticks down. And that’s something he says is OK.
“I know a lot of people that have had mental struggles and it's not easy to talk about,” said Fraser, “but I think it's essential that we do have these conversations and we do make it aware that it's not just you going through these struggles. We all can talk about our own struggles.”