After securing selection for this summer’s Olympics, the race walker hopes to improve on the sixth place he achieved in Rio in 2016

Race walker Tom Bosworth was on Thursday (March 31) announced as one of Team GB’s first athletes to book himself a seat on the plane to Tokyo. He is now revelling in the opportunity while remaining optimistic about lack of international fans and the platform from which athletes might share their political and personal beliefs.

With no family and friends allowed to accompany him, it could have been a muted celebration, but the 31-year-old, who was struck badly by COVID-19 last year, is simply grateful to be back in peak race shape and heading to his second Olympic Games in the 20km event.

(Pic: Mark Shearman)

For Bosworth, who proposed to his partner Harry on Copacabana beach at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Tokyo is going to be starkly different. This lack of international supporters hasn’t dampened his spirits and he is confident that the Japanese fans will more than make up for it.

“The great thing for me as a walker and for the marathon guys is that the Japanese love walking and the marathon,” he says. “I just hope to God, there’s not too many restrictions there and we can get the Japanese fans out because I know they’ll go absolutely wild.

“I’m really good at funnelling that energy. It’s going to be a little bit different as Japanese is quite different to English, but I’ll still be able to hear my name and it’s great to know that there are people supporting you, no matter what country you’re from.”

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He adds: “It will still be a bit of a shame because, for me, sharing that 2016 Olympics with my family was a huge part of it. Plus, they had a phenomenal holiday beforehand and probably an even better time than me!

“But, to be honest, the most important thing after the last 12 months is making the Games. I was really struck down by COVID so it’s amazing to be heading to Tokyo even if it is a year later than expected.

“We always make this point year in year out where people are left at home but what’s wrong with just being an Olympian? I think this time around has highlighted that more than ever and getting there has been enough of a battle in itself.

“I’m just sorry for those who will be heading to this as their first Games – or maybe their only Games – and they’re not going to have that opportunity to share it with them. But I know for a fact that family and friends would want them to go and have a great time and still become an Olympic athlete, which is the fundamental point at the end of the day.”

Bosworth also shared his opinions in regard to athletes demonstrating on podiums. In what has been a watershed year for Black Lives Matter, the #Metoo movement and advancements in LGBTQ+ equality, there is no avoiding the fact that the Olympics offer a perfect platform from which athletes can make their voices heard.

The Olympic ruling on demonstration has not yet been decided, but Bosworth was supportive of the opportunity for expression of beliefs as long as it is done in the right way.

“I definitely think athletes should be offered the chance to share their beliefs,” he says. “There’s so much expectation put on them to be role models and say and do the right things. But we can’t forget that they are people who have their own feelings and want to have the athletic opportunity they’ve worked their whole life for. And it’s just an added bonus if that gives them the opportunity to hopefully make a social change or make a difference.

“I’m one to question whether it really needs to be on the podium. I feel like it is a very personal moment to those three people but if somebody knelt down next to me (if I’m lucky enough to be on there) it wouldn’t bother me one bit and I would respect them for making that decision.

“I don’t think I would do it too, but I would support it massively because being LGBT in sport is so important and something I’ve campaigned on all my adult life. We need to just try to normalise that and being visible is what makes that positive change. I believe especially in today’s world for the power media should be a positive thing. But when it comes to podium displays, it should really be spoken by with the athlete and their team and done in the right most powerful and right way not necessarily just to get a headline.”

For the race-walker it’s down to business now as Tokyo fast approaches. It’s about tapering his training and ensuring he is in peak condition heading to the heat of the Japanese roads. However, he was keen to assure us that dog walks are a leisurely business and he doesn’t enforce race speed walking on his trusty lab, Jess.

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