Team GB racewalker Tom Bosworth believes it will take winning an Olympic medal in Tokyo to surpass his experience of the last Games in Rio.
And the 31-year-old is grateful that the global showpiece was delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic after catching the virus left him feeling like he’d been “run over by a bus – twice”.
“There was no way I would have been competing last summer if they went ahead, it would have been gutting,” said Bosworth, who had set British records over 5km and 10km before falling ill last year.
“It opened my eyes very early on to this, that this wasn’t just just the flu, which is what we were hearing at that point. In March last year, we knew nothing about it.
“I messaged the doc saying I think I’ve got it, I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus, twice. And last week I was in the form of my life, what on earth is going on?
“I felt normal again by the end of April so May was pretty steady training, but that left me again feeling I was really really broken by the end of it. June and July were a mess in terms of training so we just called it called it a day and started back at the beginning of September.
“I’m glad those Games were cancelled because it did take that pressure off really rushing back because I could have probably done myself more damage.”
Bosworth came out in 2015 and is currently the only openly gay male athlete on the British athletics team.
And having proposed to his boyfriend Harry on Copacabana beach after finishing sixth in the 20km walk in Rio, it is no surprise that Tokyo will be a hard act to follow.
“Even if the Games had been totally normal, for me personally, bar winning a medal there’s not much more that can top Rio,” Bosworth added. “It was the best 10 weeks of my life and I loved it.”
Bosworth was one of seven athletes officially named in the Great Britain team for Tokyo – or more accurately Sapporo, which will host the marathons and race walking events – on Thursday, joining Chris Thompson, Ben Connor, Callum Hawkins, Stephanie Davis, Jess Piasecki and Steph Twell.
Thompson, who will celebrate his 40th birthday later this month, won the trials race at Kew Gardens last week ahead of Connor, while Hawkins gained pre-selection in December 2019 and demonstrated his fitness by acting as a pacemaker.
Davis only ran her first marathon in September 2018 but the part-time athlete and self-described “porridge fiend” set a new personal best of two hours, 27 minutes and 16 seconds in winning the trials.
The 30-year-old from Glasgow joked: “I’m still waiting for a Scottish porridge company to come and give me some free sponsorship, just give me an unlimited lifetime supply of it.
“To have my place in the Olympics officially confirmed is just that final piece of the jigsaw and it’s just amazing. I can’t quite believe it’s my name on that list and I’m still waiting for it to really, really sink in.
“There wasn’t as much celebrating as probably I would have usually done after the trials but I did get to see a few friends outside and go for some walks and definitely cracked open a bottle of bubbles.”