11:00AM, Tuesday 27 July 2021
Photo: Simone Castrovillari
As Tom Dean touched home to become Olympic champion in the 200m freestyle this morning, his family and friends were raising the decibel levels thousands of miles away in the garden of his home in Maidenhead.
In a video that’s now been watched by thousands, possibly millions across the world, Tom’s family, friends, and clubmates at Maidenhead Swimming Club, gathered to watch him in final action and willed him to become Olympic champion at his first ever Games.
With 50m to go he had plenty of work to do, but he touched home in 1.44.22, just 0.04 seconds ahead of his friend and teammate Duncan Scott, who he’s been sharing an apartment with in Tokyo.
It was an intense final, with several swimmers in contention for gold coming down the home straight, but Dean won in a new British record, an achievement that’s all the more remarkable considering he contracted COVID-19 twice in the past 18 months.
His mother Jacquie Hughes, who can be seen in the forefront of Lewis Coombes’ video jumping up and down and joyously celebrating her son’s victory, told Sky News: “I said to him, Tom my heart is bursting, and it’s not just because he won a gold medal. It’s the way he conducts himself, the way he picks himself up after disappointments. He’s had two bouts of COVID which really knocked his plan off. I’m just so proud of the way he approaches it, so professionally, with such dignity, and he always cares about the other swimmers. That’s what makes me so proud.”
THIS is what the @Olympics means!! Friends & family of @ClubMaidenhead swimmer @tomdean00 cheer the new 200m Freestyle #Olympics CHAMPION home! GOLD!!! GOLD!! GOLD!!! #Tokyo2020 @BBCSport #Swimming @BBCSouthNews pic.twitter.com/wBtpR7Yba1— Lewis Coombes (@LewisCoombes) July 27, 2021
After claiming victory, Dean spoke with the BBC and praised his coach David McNulty: “I knew it would be a dogfight, I didn’t know how everybody else would swim but a race is a race. I’d like to say thanks so much to everyone back home – my mum, family, girlfriend and everybody for staying up.
“I’m lost for words. It’s amazing.
“To have two Brits on the podium and going 1-2 shows our dominance in this event and shows how far British Swimming and Team GB has come. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
“My coach Dave McNulty, I can’t thank him enough for what he has done, but he said we’re writing an amazing story this year with the COVID cases. I had 6-7 weeks out of the pool, which in an Olympic year is unheard of. He brought me through it, and I can’t thank him enough for it.
“Here we are, I couldn’t ask for a better ending to the story.”
Scott also paid tribute to Dean, saying: “Massive credit to Tom, he was incredible. He’s come so far in the last 18 months, and it’s been a pleasure to watch. It’s great to be able to say he’s a great mate out of the pool and it was great to compete with him.”
The pair will now combine forces as they attempt to help Team GB win more medals in the 4x200m freestyle relay in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Wednesday). The final is due to go off at 4.20am. With the two fastest men in their ranks, Team GB should go into the race full of confidence.