Joe Fraser hailed “the comeback of my life” after Great Britain stormed back from last place to claim a bronze medal in the men’s team final at the World Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool, and qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Fraser’s fall from the pommel in the second rotation saw his five-strong squad slump to the bottom of the eight-team standings at the halfway stage, before the 23-year-old led a sensational recovery to pip Italy by less than one and a half points for a place on the podium.
“We pulled together through the hard times and we were there for each other on the highs,” said Fraser, who has battled a ruptured appendix and a fractured foot already this year. “I went out there and gave it my all. This will be up there for the rest of my life.”
The hosts, whose team also included Jake Jarman, James Hall, Giarnni Regini-Moran and Courtney Tulloch, finished on 247.229 ahead of the Italians on 245.995. China cruised to gold with a 257.858 total, while Japan, who had qualified on top of the standings, held on to take silver on 253.395.
British hopes of a first world team medal since 2015 had been hanging by a thread when both Fraser and James Hall fell from pommel, then Jarman stumbled on his dismount from the vault, the apparatus that had earned him both European and Commonwealth Games gold medals this year.
But scores in excess of 14 from Hall and Tulloch kept British hopes alive heading into the final two apparatus and a brilliant display on parallel bars by Fraser, scoring 15.0, left bronze at the mercy of the notoriously unpredictable high bar.
Hall, Fraser and finally Jarman all delivered, having effectively gone head to head with the Italians, who produced two strong routines on pommel, before a fall on dismount by Yumin Abbadini effectively sealed Britain’s comeback bronze.
The extent of the achievement was evident for Fraser, who punched the air in delight before being engulfed by his team-mates when their place on the podium was officially confirmed.
“I definitely made it hard for us,” said Fraser. “The second piece (pommel horse) was tough for me. I made quite a few mistakes. On a three up, three to score situation it’s very detrimental for our performance.
“We were in eighth right up until two rotations to go and I said to the lads: ‘Right, come on, we’ve got nothing to lose here. Let’s step up and do what we do.’ I just went out and gave it my all. This is the comeback of my life.”
For Regini-Moran, it was a further remarkable chapter in a career that saw him recover from three serious surgeries to earn his place at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
“It was a bit of a struggle out there,” admitted the 24-year-old. “But the fact that we didn’t give up goes to show, not just gymnasts but people around the world, that no matter where you are, fight to the end and don’t give up.”