Tom Bosworth: Walking into the record books

ON THE GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - BY LORRAINE ROWLEY

© Jodi Hanagan - www.jodihanaganphotography.com

British Number one race walking athlete, Tom Bosworth, shares his highs and lows with us as we find out how the Olympic athlete from Sevenoaks got involved with race walking. We also ask about training and how he’s been preparing for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia this month.

Sevenoaks born Olympic race walker athlete, Tom Bosworth is breaking records left right and centre, boasting an astonishing catalogue of two world records and five British records to his name. He is also six times British Champion and Britain’s No.1 race walking athlete.

A man certainly on top of his game right now. We managed to catch up with him whilst he is busy preparing for his 20km race walking event at the Commonwealth Games in Australia this month.

28-year-old Tom joined Tonbridge Athletics Club at the age of 11 where he had tried many events, but after watching his sister race walking with coach Peter Selby, he decided to try that out and has been race walking ever since.

We asked Tom about his early years as a young athlete learning his sport and what help he received locally: “There’s a surprising amount of race walk coaches in the South East, so there’s plenty of clubs and other athletes to make friends with”.

Tom celebrates breaking another british record at the British athletics World Championship team trials, in Birmingham © Jodi Hanagan – www.jodihanaganphotography.com

“My first coach Pete has been a role model and an integral part of my career. He encouraged me even on days I didn’t want to be there or after a bad race, I often came last, yet he always had a positive thing to say”.

He added: “Tonbridge AC has a great tradition and structure, and continues to help the next generation”.

Tom also credits Kent County Council for being “incredibly supportive” when he was starting out and the Sevenoaks District Sports Council who were also involved in helping to aid his progression with a monetary grant.

Tom won a scholarship to study BSc (Hons) Sports Performance at Leeds Metropolitan University and it was here he began his full-time training at the National Race Walking Centre. He went on to represent Team GB in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Deli and the 2015 World Championships in Beijing where he came 11th and 24th respectively.

Having agonisingly missed out on a place at the London Olympics, 2016 saw Tom become an Olympic athlete, being selected for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Talking about the games he said: “Rio was probably the moment when I really felt that I belonged with the best in the world.”

Tom finished in an incredible 6th place and broke the British 20km record in the process. “It was the moment my career changed. I didn’t expect it, yet I should have when I look back at the training I did beforehand.”

“Very few people become an Olympian, so to be leading that race and finish top eight, is done by even fewer, I knew I’d achieved something very special” he added.

World record in London
Moving into 2017, Tom was in great shape. In July he competed at the Anniversary Games held at the London Stadium, where he smashed the one-mile world record in an astonishing five minutes 31.08 seconds, knocking off almost six seconds from a 27-year-old record.

“I didn’t set out to try and raise the profile of the event, but that has been a welcome result of the success that I have had.” © Jodi Hanagan – www.jodihanaganphotography.com

The World Championships followed just a month later in August, with Tom being a high hope for a British medal.

At this stage in his career, Tom was now in fine flow, and was leading the race for much of the first half before devastation struck falling foul of the judges, receiving his third and final red card, resulting in disqualification from the race.

His first DQ in four and a half years. “London was devastating for me. I was in amazing shape and everything had been going really well” he stated.

This was a massive blow for Tom in his bid to become the first Briton to claim a medal in a major competition since the 1964 Olympics. So how does an athlete deal with such extreme highs of a world record to the lows of a DQ?

“It did take me a while to pick myself up, but friends and family play a large part in this and also having a focus on the next goal is important in moving on.

“I’m hungry for more, I’m keen to break one hour 20 minute mark for the 20km (my PB is 1:20:13), and I hope it can come at a major championship like the last time I broke the 20km British record. The Commonwealth Games have been my winter focus and I am excited to get out there”.

Gold Coast 2018
Tom has been selected by Team England to Co-Captain the athletics team out in Australia at the Commonwealth Games, he tweeted just before the opening ceremony: “Very proud to co-captain this England Athletic team… let’s perform and inspire.”

He has been busy preparing and training hard for the games “I had a great training camp out in South Africa this year and I’m really excited about the events to come”.

The race will be strongly contested and with the games only holding a 20km distance race walk, the 50km athletes will take the step down to compete, making the competition ridiculously tough. The 20km race walk takes place on Sunday 8th April at 7.00am local time (Saturday 7th April at 10.00pm BST).

Race Walking
Race walking is a long-distance foot race in which the athletes must walk and not run. There are two rules to race walking, one foot must be in contact with the ground at all times and secondly the leading leg is required to be straightened as the foot makes contact with the ground. It must remain straightened until the leg passes under the body.

There are judges on the course monitoring the athletes form, who have to rely on their naked eye. Three judges submitting red cards for violations results in disqualification. Race walking not only requires speed and stamina, but technique and skill.

We asked Tom if he was proud of his part in raising the profile of the sport “I didn’t set out to try and raise the profile of the event, but that has been a welcome result of the success that I have had. I think there was a stigma with race walking that has been broken and people can appreciate it in the same bracket as running endurance events”.