A TonbridgeÂ Athletic Club member has joined the British team competing at the Olympic Games in Brazil, which begins this weekend.
After achieving his ambition of winning a place in Rio, race walker Tom Bosworth is now aiming to bring home a medal.
Having claimed the British number one spot in the 20km event category, he is in the final stages of high altitude training before taking on his ultimate challenge.
The 26 year old, who has been a member of the Tonbridge Athletic Club for the past 15 years, said the coaches are one of the main reasons he has succeeded in his bid to become an Olympian.
His preparations for Rio were boosted in June when he won the national Olympic trial in Leeds. This confirmed his place with Team GB in Brazil, having agonisingly just missed out on becoming a member of the London 2012 squad.
The 2016 Games has already courted major controversy over the failure to enforce a complete ban on Russian athletes over doping allegations, and fears over the mosquito-born Zika virus being present in South America. The disease’s outbreak had led to calls for the games to be postponed but they are now going ahead as planned.
Speaking exclusively to the Times, Tom, who lives near Tonbridge, explained how one of his personal ambitions is to help raise the profile of race walking as Britain has not produced any major triumphs on the international stage within the sport since the 1980’s.
Tom said: “This is every athlete’s dream. I never thought it would be possible for me to reach this level, especially after missing out in London.
“I just kept working hard, making improvements on the track and in my day-to-day life to maximise training and recovery. Then I started winning races, breaking records, qualifying for championships, and now I have the greatest honour to be part of Team GB. Come 12 August I can call myself an Olympian.
“It will be special, because it’s my first Olympics. But missing out on London 2012 is why I’m here. It drove me on and I’m now four minutes faster over 20k this year than I was four years ago.
“I’ve competed at European and World level and have proven my worth, now I want to become one of the favourites at major championships,” added the race walker, who praised his ‘great team’ in the way they have helped him adapt to conditions in Brazil.
He revealed he had also been given ‘inspiring support’ from fellow Kent athletes going to Rio, including sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, as well as runners Jack Green and Adam Gemili.
Tom said: “My fellow Kent team mates in the Athletic’s team I know and are all so supportive! Dina Asher-Smith (and her fabulous mum), Adam Gemili and Jack Green just to mention a few, have always sent me messages of support as I’ve improved to join them at major championship level. Coming from them it’s always a big complement, especially for me being in an event that often gets over looked, it’s inspiring to receive such encouragement and recognition.”
Last year, Tom competed in the World Championships in China. His former Tonbridge Athletic Coach, Peter Selby, recalled how he helped develop Tom’s ability as a teenager before the young star gained a scholarship to Leeds Metropolitan University in 2009. He went on to train full-time in his sport at the National Race Walking Centre, but still competes for Tonbridge Athletic.
Mr Selby said: “I think everyone at Tonbridge Athletic Club will be wishing Tom well. It’s a brilliant achievement to have made the Olympic team.
“We helped develop him from being a keen but not brilliant athlete, through to someone who was serious about the sport by the age of 18. Tonbridge has a good record for turning out race walkers, including Tim Berrett, who has represented Canada.
“Tom went on to study at Leeds and I’ve kept in touch with him. He is a great example of what can be done if you put your mind to it.”
The race walking circuit in Brazil, which runs along the coast next to the Pontal island, has been described as one of the most beautiful in Olympic history. The event is scheduled to take place on Friday 12 August.
While he is under no illusion of the scale of the task ahead of him, he’s placed himself in prime position to be contending for Olympic honours this Friday, He added:Â “I just want to have the satisfaction I gave my all, no regrets at all. I have dedicated every second this season to my Olympic goal, leaving no stone unturned and that has meant missing family events and being away from home for a lot of the season, so some over due time with my family and partner, who are all traveling out to Rio to watch, will be the best way to celebrate. I am though, looking forward to the rest period after Rio, having not taken a significant break in almost 2 years, my legs are going to need it!”