10:00AM, Sunday 24 January 2021
Maidenhead swimmer Tom Dean has said he’s excited to establish himself on the world stage by competing at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo, and he’s hopeful the games can be staged without too many inconveniences for the athletes or spectators.
The Olympics is usually one of the biggest sports events on the planet, but this summer’s events could be impacted by the global pandemic, despite organisers hopes and assurances they’ll go ahead as normal.
He’s been told by his Team GB coaches he has to be in the right physical and mental state to compete and to put any fears or doubts about COVID-19 to the back of his mind. But the Maidenhead swimmer admits the prospect of potentially catching the virus is scary.
“Hopefully, the world will be in a much better place in six months’ time,” he said.
“The line from British Swimming is that it is very much going ahead. Tokyo are determined to push ahead, and we need to train like it’s going ahead, because we can’t afford to be complacent.
“Our training hasn’t been ideal, but we’re in a better place than a lot of other countries. But then there are some countries who’ve had a better situation than us.
“Australia are a very strong swimming country and they’ve had very little disruption to their training programme. We’ve got to get our head down, train as if it’s going ahead and to all intents and purposes they will.”
He added: “I’m excited to put my name on the world stage this summer hopefully, at what would be my first games if all goes to plan.”
Dean knows that if he or one of his close training partners was to catch the virus in the coming months, it could have major repercussions on his hopes of competing for medals at the Olympics or even making his place on the GB squad. Most young, fit people bounce back pretty quickly from catching COVID-19, but it’s a disease which attacks the respiratory system and could damage an athlete’s aerobic capacity, something that’s essential for swimmers.
“Fingers crossed things will go well, but if someone in the squad came down with COVID it would take out a lot of the people around them because of the way the training environment is set up,” he said.
“The sport is an aerobic sport at the end of the day and it’s the lungs and it’s the heart that does the work, especially in the longer distance events.
“And you read these reports of people having long COVID symptoms and causing damage to their respiratory system. And it is scary at the end of the day because, though it might not be life threatening, it’s threatening to our line of work essentially. When you’re faced with the prospect of shortness of breath or it damaging your aerobic capacity then, yeah, it’s a bit scary right.”
Despite those concerns, Dean has come along way from the last Olympic trials ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016. Back then he competed with Maidenhead Swimming Club and could only watch in awe as GB trained swimmers scooped up many of the team’s spots.
He said: “It is weird looking back to 2016.
“I remember going to the Olympic trials with Maidenhead, my coach, my sister and my friend George Taplin and I took part in one heat swim and that was it. I remember watching the likes of these Olympians qualify and get their place on the team and thinking ‘I’m miles off’.
“It’s worlds apart from where I am right now. The swimmers I was watching were part of the Bath National Centre, and now I’ve been given the opportunity to hopefully become one of those athletes. It is interesting to look back on the journey and hopefully I’ll be able to continue on this upward trajectory. Fingers crossed.”
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