07:00PM, Thursday 22 April 2021
Maidenhead’s Tom Dean will fancy his chances of competing for medals at this summer's Olympic Games after producing the 10th fastest swim of all time in the men’s 200m freestyle at the British Swimming Selection Trials in London.
Incredibly the swim was only good enough for second place, with Tom edged out by compatriot Duncan Scott, but both swimmers beat the previous national record with their times of 1.44.47 and 1.44.58 and have almost certainly cemented their place in the Great Britain Swimming squad for Tokyo.
Their swims also propelled them into the top 10 all-time rankings for the event, alongside legends of the sport such as Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe and Ryan Lochte.
They are ninth and 10th on the list respectively, with Paul Biedermann’s 2009 World Championships swim the fastest of all time (1.42.00).
Matthew Richards, James Guy and Calum Jarvis also achieved the Tokyo qualification time in a race that bodes well for the men’s 4x200m freestyle prospects at the games.
The achievement, for a swimmer who is yet to compete at an Olympics, is stunning in its own right, but Tom competed so fiercely having twice contracted COVID over the past year.
For swimmers, every second spent training in the pool is vital and Tom being laid low by the virus certainly ‘threw a few question marks in the air’ over whether he’d be fit enough to compete in Tokyo.
However, his sublime swim at the trials has batted away those concerns and he expects to see his name on the list when Team GB reveal their roster on Tuesday.
“On the back of that time, I’m fairly confident I’ll be going,” he said.
“The trials showed just the calibre of athletes Team GB have and on paper we now have the fastest team in the world.
“There is always a degree of nerves going into a big competition like this.
“You’ve been training so hard for so long and if it doesn’t go your way, it can be a real hit for the confidence.
“Having contracted COVID twice over the past year, I am very thankful everything came together in the trials.
“I had three weeks out of four away from swimming in September and in January too. It was a real setback.
“Six weeks out of the pool during an Olympic year is unheard of so it was tough to come back from that and it definitely threw a few question marks in the air.
“But now that is under my belt, I can look at the next 14 weeks and get my head down. If I can go 1.44.58 on the back of a disrupted training schedule, then who knows what I can achieve in the summer.”
Speaking about the effects COVID had on his body and training, Tom added: “I had a relatively mild case at the end of September just before I went out to Budapest for the International Swimming League. I was isolating out of the pool for 2-3 weeks and I was ill for only a matter of days.
“Then, in January, I caught a severe case of it. I was pretty much bed-ridden for 10 days. I couldn’t get out and move around without coughing and wheezing. I lost my sense of taste and smell, and my heart rate was high all the time.
“Swimming is a cardiovascular sport. It relies so heavily on the heart and lungs and suddenly, I’m getting out of breath walking up my stairs.
“That was a big shock, physically and mentally. Swimming requires you to train twice a day every day for six days a week. Every time you take a session out of the pool, it requires two to get where you were prior.
“A combination of factors made it not an ideal preparation and there was a degree of uncertainty heading into my first Olympic trials. I didn’t have the solid block of training I wanted.
“In the end, I think it was just a case of pushing that to the side and just focusing to be the best I could on the day,” Tom added.
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