Tom Bosworth, 20k Muller British Trials, photo by Getty images/ British Athletics
Tom Bosworth is the top British race walker, and Stuart Weir wrote this piece on the sixth placer from Doha!
Tom Bosworth is the first British athlete – apart from Marathoners – to be selected for Tokyo. By finishing second in the recent trials he secured his place. The winner, Calum Wilkinson, needs to achieve the Olympic standard to secure his place. It represents a happy ending to a difficult year in which he has battled COVID and injury.
I hope you guys will have us walkers back in the future please! pic.twitter.com/kLay7a9ofa
— Tom Bosworth (@TomBosworth) March 28, 2021
He got COVID in spring 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. “When I got it in March last year”, he recalls, “we knew so little about it. We were told it was just like flu. But I remember calling my doctor and saying ‘I think I’ve got Covid. I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus – twice! Last week I was in the form of my life so what’s going on?’ The advice was take vitamin C and don’t do anything. I was then glad when the Games were canceled because it took away the pressure of needing to rush back, because that could have done myself more damage. I felt normal again about a month later but I still wish I’d taken more time off. May was steady training and easy work but I felt broken at the end of it. May and June were a mess as far as training was concerned. My body was feeling awful as I was trying to get ready for the British Champs. And, to be honest when you’re building up to the Olympics, a race behind closed doors in Manchester didn’t really live up to the same level so my head wasn’t in it either. So we just called it a day and I started again at the beginning of September. So it took me four or five months to recover. I could probably have done it in three if it had been full rest”.
The postponement of the Olympics was a massive disappointment for many but it worked in Tom’s favor. “I know, there’s no way I would’ve been competing had the Games gone ahead last summer. I’ve spoken to physiologists who thought that maybe I was too far ahead at this stage last year because I was too eager. COVID hit me hard last year because I had sacrificed every minute. Hopefully I have learned from that and I now know I can be fully committed but still walk the dog at the same time!”
In a normal year, Tom would have everything mapped out in terms of preparation. He describes the strategy for 2021 as having a plan but being ready to change it six times! Given that Sapporo is going to be warm, the plan includes a camp in somewhere or other in warm weather or altitude. He then admits that the camp could be in Arizona, Monte Gordo in Portugal or a laboratory simulation in Leeds, England.
He is encouraged that everyone is in the same boat. “It has been a great leveler – certainly in my event – perhaps not necessarily in a more technical events where you need equipment. But for my event, you just need to stick your shoes on and go out and get the miles done. So it’s been a great leveler. I know I benefit massively from heat work and I definitely missed that but it hasn’t stopped me getting out every single day. I’ve had a brilliant winter. It’s been back to basics and a quite enjoyed it and it’s quite a level playing field now”.
The seven-time British champion was sixth in Rio and seventh in the 2019 World Championships. The Doha performance in the heat should give him confidence for Tokyo. “Definitely we had prepared really well for that race. Sapporo will be the same. If you don’t prepare well you can’t expect to perform well. I think in Doha some athletes went into events thinking ‘I can get through this’ but Doha was something I’d never experienced before. Because I was coming off injury my aim was just to finish the race. Seventh was something I didn’t expect at all. I think it came from the years of training I had put in and my championship experience. You can’t buy that championship learning, knowing that conditions are going to take their toll. It will be the same for Sapporo. And I trust in British Athletics that, whether in a laboratory or in hot country, we will get the work done”.
It amuses me that Tom’s downtime involves walking his dog – can’t get away from walking it seems! He admits, though, that he walks “very slowly! She would hate me if I walked fast”. I am glad someone can slow Tom down.