Joe Fraser hails ‘massive role model’ Max Whitlock ahead of Olympic debut

Joe Fraser hails ‘massive role model’ Max Whitlock ahead of Olympic debut
Fraser joins Whitlock, Giarni Regini-Moran and James Hall in the GB team competing in Tokyo.

Joe Fraser has hailed the influence of double gold medallist Max Whitlock on the eve of his own Olympic bow in the men’s qualification rounds in Tokyo on Saturday.

Fraser was an untested 18-year-old when Whitlock famously claimed his back-to-back titles in Rio but launched himself on a spectacular trajectory that has culminated in him starring alongside the 28-year-old in the four-man GB team.

Fraser, who was unexpectedly crowned world champion on the parallel bars in Stuttgart in 2019, said: “Max is a massive role model and I have been lucky to have been with him in numerous teams through my senior career.

Joe Fraser was an untested teenager when Max Whitlock won his two Olympic golds (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Max has always given me great advice and I know that everything he tells me is in good faith. He believes in all of us and our abilities, just as we believe in him. I am very grateful that he is so humble and you can talk to him about anything.”

Giarni Regini-Moran and James Hall complete a team that will fancy itself to nudge into medal contention, although hopes of getting anywhere close to the seven won by the gymnastics team in Rio appear to rest predominantly with Whitlock and Fraser in their respective individual apparatus.

Whitlock will compete on three apparatus in order to boost the team effort but his individual focus will remain firmly on the pommel, where Ireland’s Commonwealth Games champion Rhys McClenaghan poses one of his biggest threats for gold.

Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan is one of Max Whitlock’s main rivals (Jane Barlow/PA)

Japanese attention will be focused on three-time Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura. The home favourite’s options have been restricted by injury, but he will hope to bring a victorious end to his illustrious career when he competes in the horizontal bar.

Just as Uchimura’s all-round abilities acted as significant motivation for Whitlock to target the top of the world, so the legacy created by the British number one is already being keenly felt in the next generation of domestic athletes, of which Fraser is the leading name.

“Max always does that extra little bit and he has shown us that that is the bit that makes all the difference,” added Fraser.

“We call it the one-per-centers. They make such a huge difference in every sport, and he has shown me that numerous times throughout his career. I feel like he can pass that down to future generations and I am very proud to be in the team with him.”