Heartache in 2012 spurred race-walker Tom Bosworth on, and now he can to fulfil his dream at Rio 2016. Lee Sobot reports.
LEEDS RACE-Walker Tom Bosworth was heartbroken when failing to qualify for London 2012.
It’s fair to say plenty has changed since then as the clock ticks down to Rio.
After all, four years on, the 26-year-old will openly fly the flag not just for GB race-walking but also for being a proud member of the LGBT community. Bosworth is counting down the days to his Olympic debut in the men’s 20km race-walk after producing an impressive response to failing to make the grade in the run up to the London Games.
The then 22-year-old fell 19 seconds short of the standard required, yet four years later the athlete has slashed four minutes off the kind of times he was recording in 2012.
But there’s no doubting that an even bigger development in Bosworth’s life has come away from the track and the race-walker says happiness in both has come hand in hand.
Just under two years after diving star Tom Daley announced that he is gay and in a relationship with another man, Bosworth plucked up the courage last October to reveal that he too is LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans gender – and in a happy relationship with Liverpool-based primary school teacher Harry Dineley.
Just under one year later, Dineley will be part of the bustling crowds in South America to cheer his partner of five years on to glory.
Thanks to his courageous announcement of last October – when he became the first track or field athlete to come out as openly gay – Bosworth will have a newfound spring in his step, of which he is hugely proud.
In an honest and exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post at Team GB’s Kitting Out in Birmingham, Bosworth revealed: “I didn’t see my life changing when I made that kind of announcement last year. But it has – it’s completely changed because of it – there’s a lot more media interest, a lot more people now know who I am, which I didn’t expect at all.
“But sub-consciously as well I think also it’s really helped me because I have had the season of my life.
“Maybe I have just been completely worry-free – I can put whatever I want on social media, I can talk about my partner openly and that’s great, that’s how everybody should be.
“Hopefully, in months and years to come, it won’t need somebody outing themselves publicly, you can just live openly. That would be great and, judging by this season, I’m glad I did it when I did it – we timed it for that reason, when there’s no competitions, no distractions, and you can focus on the Olympics.
“I want to go to the Olympics and be like any other athlete, but I respect and honour that side of things are now on my shoulders a little bit.
“I don’t see that as a bad thing, I kind of honour that.
“I want to do my best for the LBGT community – there’s a handful of LBGT athletes – there’s a number going to Rio and, hopefully, that number will grow.”
Daley, and Yorkshire’s very own Nicola Adams, are two very high-profile ‘others’ with Daley’s revelation about his relationship with Dustin Lance Black making international headlines in December 2013.
“Tom has become like an icon and he has done it very well,” said Bosworth.
“He has clearly managed very well, he was a lot younger than me when he did it so fair respect to him, but where I saw similarities between me and him is that he was in a happy relationship and I was as well.
“My family and support team around me were all really happy – I had this nice bubble and I guess he had the same thing so he had that confidence and that support network behind him to do that.
“He’s done the LBGT community huge wonders in sport and he’s a such a fantastic role model as his personality and his character that comes across is so professional.
“Harry and I met on a stag do in York which is pretty random.
“He was on a stag do, I was just literally out with a couple of friends and it kind of went from there.
“We met up a few more times. We have been together five years – he’s coming to Rio with my parents and his sister, so they will all be there which is brilliant.”
With happiness away from the track now at an all-time high, brilliance on the track is now Bosworth’s big aim with the athlete looking to better his 24th-placed finish at the World Championships last year.
But however he fares in South America the Leeds student has already made massive strides with Bosworth his event’s undisputed no1 and third on the 20k British All-Time list with a personal best that is only 17 seconds from the 20k British record. Bosworth is also the British record holder for the 10k race walk, 39:36, set in 2015 along with the 5000m race walk, 19:16, set in 2014.
It has been a case of stellar progress since the heartache of 2012 when not one athlete represented Team GB at London 2012 – and Bosworth instead had to make to do with being a torch bearer.
That experience softened the blow somewhat, but next month’s outing in South America will fulfil dreams which actually began way back in 2008.
“I missed out on London by a few seconds so it’s been pretty much the dream for me really that started since June 2012,” said Bosworth.
“But really it’s been ever since the 2008 Olympics when I first made my first Olympics trials.
“Ever since then it’s started to get real but it was still so far away and it only sunk in at the Kitting Out, doing media, speaking about it – it’s happening.
“Nobody went in the 20k walk, it was me or no-one and I missed out by 19 seconds over 20k which is, like, nothing.
“But I have always said, if I went to the Olympics in 2012 and finished mid-pack and went to be average, would I be sitting here now going to Rio? Maybe not. I might have been complacent and thought ‘I have been to an Olympics, I don’t really need to try and do it any more’.
“But those 19 seconds spurred me on so much and I never, ever thought I would take four minutes off my time since what I did in 2012.
“And now, I think, rightfully, I am ranked as one of the best, and I put that down to missing London.”
Assessing the task of flying the flag for his sport, Bosworth beamed: “There’s just myself and then there’s Dominic King in the 50k so for the walkers just me.
“It’s nice, and the last few years it’s been a little bit like that – at Europeans, World Champs – I was the only walker in the athletics team at all and so it’s nice to have somebody else and another walker going. I’m continually trying to push the event back into mainstream athletics, back into mainstream media, and I have had a load of support from the media and from British Athletics and the likes of Athletics Weekly as well.
“Everyone has been interested. Setting records and winning races helps, and that is what I have done this year so that, obviously in an Olympics year, just helps. I am quite honoured and excited and I don’t mind flying that flag for that event!”