National Lottery support helps Tom take adversity in his stride
If race walker Tom Bosworth claims his first Olympic medal in Tokyo, his achievement will represent a real triumph over adversity.
The 31-year-old – who is ranked No. 1 in the UK over 20km – tested positive for Covid-19 last year and spent a month fighting the virus. He said, “I noticed I’d lost a huge amount of fitness afterwards and it took my body a long time to be able to do sport at a high level. I don’t think I had long Covid, but as an athlete who pushes their body every day it was a real struggle. There were definitely points last year when I had question marks about my ability to reach full fitness.”
Tom did manage to fight his way back to full strength, but in February 2021 he suffered a hamstring injury that presented another serious challenge to his Olympic hopes. He said, “The hamstring cost me a lot of training time in March and April and now it’s just a race to get my fitness level as high as I can in the time I’ve got.”
So far – with the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to start on Friday 23rd July, 2021 – he seems to be winning his race against the clock. In the past 3 weeks he has shaved 5 minutes off the 20km times he recorded in March. He said, “I’m within touching distance – the only question now is how fit can I get.”
The expert treatment and advice Tom received when he sustained his hamstring injury is just one example of the support our elite athletes receive with the help of National Lottery funding. National Lottery players continue to help our elite athletes access the coaches and training facilities they need to be their best as well as allowing them to focus on their sport by covering travel and living expenses.
Tom said, “I feel so privileged to have been supported through the World Class Programme via The National Lottery. I don’t think I’d have the discipline or the ability to train while holding down a full-time job, so the support is crucial. I certainly wouldn’t be at the level I’m at now without it.”
The Tokyo Olympics will undoubtedly be very different to any of its predecessors. The athletes’ family and friends will not be allowed to accompany them to Japan and the vast crowds that usually cheer on the competitors will be missing.
Tom has a great deal of sympathy for younger athletes attending their first Olympics. He said, “The Olympics should be the most crazy, bonkers few weeks of your life – an experience that you’ve earned and worked incredibly hard for. It’s a shame we won’t be able to share this experience with family and friends, but it’s for all the right reasons and they’ll be cheering at home.”
The unusual conditions are unlikely to put many athletes off their game. Tom said, “Athletes who have reached this level learn to adapt. They’ve learned to cope with injuries and changes to the schedule – that’s normal. So hopefully, we’re the best people to take on this kind of challenge.”
What would he say to younger athletes looking to make their mark in Tokyo? He said, “The key to success at this level is don’t go changing what you know works. You’ve done something very right to get yourself to the level you’re at, the rest is just tweaking and adapting.
“Loads of people get to a big event like an Olympic Games and suddenly think they need to change everything they’re doing. That will be a complete shock to the body. It’s all about trusting in the process that you have learned over years and just enjoying it.”
At the 1996 Olympic Games, Great Britain and Northern Ireland finished 36th in the medal table with one gold medal. Then in 1997 National Lottery funding for elite sport began. Since then, we have won 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals and in the last Games in Rio in 2016 we finished in 2nd place. All this is made possible by you, National Lottery players. When you play a little, you help our athletes a lot.
7th July 2021
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