Matt Baker is so associated with television presenting that it may come as a surprise to fans to learn that he was once a gymnastics champion.
The host is fronting the BBC’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games, and occasionally makes reference to his gymnastics past.
It turns out that Baker competed at the junior level of gymnastics as a child, and was en route to becoming a major champion in the sport.
“For me, to be able to express myself through movement was something that [made me think]: I’ve found it, and this is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” he told the BBC in 2016.
“It just clicked with me. It was something that I loved and I didn’t have to think about whether or not I wanted to [do it]. It wasn’t like my parents were pushing me into it.”
Baker’s parents were supportive, though, with his father buying an array of gym equipment at auction so his son could train at home.
Around the age of 14, Baker said he began feeling increasingly tired, and a visit to the doctor revealed that he was anaemic. As a result, he stopped professional gymnastics.
“It was a tough decision because I never once felt that I didn’t want to go to the gym,” he explained.
After stopping, Baker at first thought about becoming a physiotherapist before pursuing acting at drama school. That led to TV presenting, with Blue Peter kick-starting a long television career that has included stints on The One Show and Countryfile.
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While he doesn’t take part in gymnastics anymore, he does credit the sport with making him the person he is today.
“It gave me everything that I have today,” he said. “It taught me about dedication, it taught me about putting in the hours and [getting] a result … It’s something that’s really, really special.”
Baker is presenting the gymnastics coverage at this year’s Olympics. Keep up to date with all the latest developments on The Independent’s live blog here.
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