11:35AM, Tuesday 03 August 2021
Tom Dean returned home to a hero’s welcome along the River Road in Maidenhead last night (Monday), as family, friends and supporters lined the streets to see the 21-year-old bring home his two Olympic gold medals.
It had been a long day for Tom and his Team GB swimming teammates, who’d earlier enjoyed a homecoming reception with friends and family at a hotel at Heathrow Airport before travelling on to their respective destinations.
Tom and his family made the relative short trip up the M4 to Maidenhead, where hundreds of people were waiting outside his home by the River Thames, ready to acclaim Britain’s first double Olympic swimming champion in 113 years.
Family and friends had been invited to throw Tom a surprise party, but it felt like half of Maidenhead turned up to congratulate the returning Olympian.
Tom surprised the swimming world last week when he touched home just 0.04 seconds ahead of teammate Duncan Scott to win 200m freestyle gold, and a little more than 24 hours later he was at it again, leading off Team GB’s gold medal winning 4x200m team.
Bleary eyed, after an 11-hour flight home from Japan, but buzzing with adrenaline, Tom stepped out of his car someway short of his home, such was the size of the crowd who’d come to greet him.
First grasping, and then wearing his two gold medals, he walked with his mum, Jacquie, girlfriend Catherine and his brothers and sisters the final 100 yards to his house where an almighty roar of approval awaited him.
He then thanked those who’d turned out to see him but admitted he was struggling to put it all into words.
However, judging his audience perfectly as usual, he found just the right ones.
“I’m actually shaking, it’s insane,” he said. “It’s been the longest day, and everyone knows I’ve been doing media and Team GB stuff and I had no idea all of this was waiting for me. Thank you so much.
“This means the world. These (his medals) are special, but this is more special, honestly, I can’t even begin to put it into words.
“I thought that watch party was something, but this is a level above. Thank you so, so, much guys. These medals are yours just as much as they are mine.”
His sister, Connie Dean, had played a major role in organising the surprise homecoming party and getting the word out to all of Tom’s friends.
She said: “I can’t believe you all came. Thank you so much for coming. I did not think this many people would turn out. It’s all his swimming friends, school friends, everyone he’s ever know. I sent the invite out thinking we’d get a handful of people and thank you to everyone who came earlier and put this whole thing together to celebrate my lovely brother and our double Olympic champion.
“If you know Tom, you’ll know how hard he worked. If you went to school with him, you know all of the early mornings, everything he’s done to get to this point, and it is no mean feat.”