Friday, 17 July 2015

Tom talks to Sports Mole

Tom Bosworth took time out of his preparation for the World Championships to talk to Liam Apicella of Sports Mole. We reproduce the interview in full, as it appeared on www.sportsmole.co.uk

Having been denied the chance to compete at a home Olympic Games in London three years ago by a matter of seconds, British race walker Tom Bosworth is unable to hide his excitement as he looks ahead to the next few months.

The 25-year-old, who is the British record holder over 5km and 10km, will wear the Team GB vest at the upcoming World Athletics Championships and Beijing, and all being well, he will get to realise his Olympic dream in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Sports Mole caught up with Bosworth to find out how his preparations for the big events are coming along, as well as getting his thoughts on what can be done to boost the popularity of his sport on these shores.

With the greatest of respect, race walking is not a sport that most youngsters grow up hoping to represent their country in. How did you get involved?

"I wasn't a 10-year-old that wanted to walk for my country. I always wanted to be good at sport, but I was never great at team sports. I eventually found athletics at 11 and it just kind of clicked. I tried my hand at all sorts of events, but I was mostly built for the endurance events. My sister also did the walk, so I tried it out and it went from there."

It looks a really tough sport to master - is that the case?

"Technically it's really challenging, which is tough because even once you've mastered that, you get fitter and then your technique has to develop to make sure you don't get disqualified. Kids seem to take to it brilliantly. I go into schools and to athletics clubs to demonstrate it. They have a go and the majority seem to pick up immediately."

What has to be done for race walking to become a more popular sport in this country?

"Myself and the girls that are leading the way, we need to keep getting better and faster. We need someone in the top 10 in the world and winning medals. People understand the likes of the triathlon and the heptathlon and they are not easy events to grasp, but because we've had the medals in it, people talk about it and they know the stars. Race walking can be the same if we improve."

You mention winning medals - what needs to change for that to become a reality? Either for yourself or future race walkers.

"We have the race walking centre in Leeds which has been open for six years with a full-time coach and the support team behind him. I was the first product of that. Endurance sport takes time - it's taken me around seven years to make my first World Championships and be a regular there. Junior guys all want to come to Leeds because they've seen I've done it and I'm still developing. I'm only 25, so hopefully I've got plenty of years ahead of me. Hopefully, as I succeed, people will see that and want to get involved."
 

Do you see yourself as a role model?

"Because I'm on my own, no matter what, it's naturally happened. I am literally the only international walker going to championships from Britain. Obviously, Johanna Atkinson is a double Olympian and a Commonwealth Games gold medallist - she did it for a long time, but is dropping off a little bit. I've taken that responsibility on and I'm happy to do that - it inspires me. I try to communicate with some of the juniors and encourage them. I tell them what I was like at their age and where I went wrong, which will hopefully benefit them."

Being so far in front, when it comes to British races, is it tough to stay motivated? Or are you competing against yourself?

"I am competing against myself because I know if I become complacent, some of the guys are capable of catching me. Over the 20km, I am competing on my own right now, but then I also have international competition at that level. In Britain, I'm luckily at the level where I can chase the clock and I want to get every record that I can. I'm taking them down slowly, which is great motivation to see my name at the top of the all-time lists."

At the recent British Championships, many of the field recorded either personal or season-best times. Does that indicate the standard of race walking in this country is progressing, albeit slowly?

"Without a doubt. Three or four years ago at the Birmingham trials, men and women went together because the numbers were so low. Now, we've got a full field in both races and PBs all over the place. It just shows the work of Andi Drake, the coach in Leeds. It shows where the sport is going. My time in Birmingham was the seventh fastest over 5km in the world, which has people realising that Britain has race walkers again. That's the first time people are thinking that way in perhaps two decades.

"The best of it is that a lot of our guys are all under 20. Walking is something a lot of people envisage your mum or granddad doing around the park, so it's up to us to change that perception. People are starting to realise just how quick we can go. On Twitter, I've had messages from people saying they can't even run that fast!"

 
Since your success in Birmingham - where BBC Sport highlighted your performance - have you and the sport received more attention than normal? And what about that celebratory dance?!

"I've had to turn my phone off, it's been that crazy! It's been good fun, though. I work for that. I train hard all year for the big events and that sort of reaction makes it worthwhile. The dance at the end, I've done that at the end of a few races over the last 18 months and had a positive reaction. It gets people talking. Every single interview after the race, I was asked about it, but it's got people talking and smiling."

Right now, all roads lead to Beijing and the World Athletics Championships. Your personal best over 20km is 1:22.20 - can you beat that?

"With conditions in Beijing, it's going to make for an interesting race. I feel that I'm in the shape to do that. I'm only a few seconds off the British 20k record and to break that would be a dream. The race is first thing in the morning, but the weather can be so unpredictable, which might make for an incredibly fast race. If that happens, I don't see why [I cannot break it]. If not, I know I'm in that shape so I know I can be competitive and target a top-20 finish. There are no more competitions - it's all about training and then I'll be off to Japan at the end of the month for some altitude preparation."

Looking slightly further ahead, how exciting is the prospect of wearing the Team GB vest at the Rio Olympics next year?

"It's every athlete's dream to be an Olympian. I missed out on London by a few seconds and that pushed me on. I've gone up to a whole new level and I've completely changed my game. There is a World Championships in six weeks obviously, which I can learn from. I can learn how to race against the best in the world and understand how the big events work. I've already walked the qualifying time for Rio and I'll have to do that again next year, but it's a massive confidence boost that technically I don't need to get better to go to the Olympic Games. But, boy do I want to get better and be right up the front in Rio!"

As a British champion and record holder, is it disappointing that you do not currently receive funding?

"It's disappointing, but I've never been on funding. I'm not sure if I've ever been taken seriously as a medal contender. Perhaps race walking has been the unknown and grey area of athletics for a while. Now, people are seeing how much I've developed from going to the Commonwealth Games at the age of 20 to becoming a competitive athlete. I'm always looking for sponsors because the rent has to be paid and at the moment money is incredibly tight. Building a profile, getting my name out there and continuing to smash records - that's all I can do. I don't think I can be left off funding for much longer because I seem to have ticked most other boxes."

What would funding do for you?

"It would allow a completely stress-free season, particularly going into Rio. With the funding, I'll be able to pay the rent, have physios and go to training camps without any worries. There have been too many worries about money already this year, but I'm hoping soon that will not be the case. It would put my mind at rest and I could continue to develop and get better."
 
This article first appeared on www.sportsmole.co.uk on 15 July 2015.
 
Follow Tom on twitter @TomBosworth
 
#RaceWalking #WorldChampionships #Beijing #OlympicGames #Rio2016
 
 

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