Tom Dean hopes his Olympic champion status plays on mind of rivals in Paris

By Sports Desk January 25, 2024

Tom Dean is counting on his aura giving him an added edge at this summer’s Olympics as he chases history on two fronts in Paris.

Dean joined an illustrious list including Mark Spitz, Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps by pipping close friend and British team-mate Duncan Scott to gold in the men’s 200 metres freestyle at Tokyo 2020.

As well as seeking to become the first man to retain that title, Dean has eyes on winning five medals in the French capital and usurping Scott as Britain’s most decorated athlete at a single Games.

Having already made a name for himself on the grandest stage, the Bath-based 23-year-old has noticed a shift in attitudes from his rivals and hopes to use it to his advantage in six months’ time.

“I’ll always be announced as Olympic champion,” Dean told the PA news agency. “I’ll be announced as reigning Olympic champion heading into this meet, it’s not an arrogance thing, it’s just the way it is.

“It’s a fact. If that plays into people’s minds then good, I hope it does and I hope it stamps a degree of authority. I’ve felt it in terms of how I’ve been approached by other swimmers since Tokyo.

“Having a reputation can only only play into my hands. There’s obviously pressure, there’s been pressure every time I’ve stepped up to race since winning that Olympic gold and this is no different.

“There’s a target on your back at domestic and international meets, you’ve got a target at training sessions, when people are trying to beat you when you’re just doing your reps. It’s always the way.”

Scott was on the podium four times at Tokyo 2020, including winning gold in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay alongside Dean, who edged out his team-mate by four hundredths of a second to claim individual glory.

Along with attempting to win those crowns again, Dean intends to compete in the men’s 200m individual medley, the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay and the men’s 4×100m medley relay.

“I’m making a conscious effort to give myself the best shot, it’s a momentous task – the stars are going to have to align because anything can change,” Dean said.

Despite Dean being Olympic champion, Britain can only choose two swimmers for the men’s 200m freestyle, with Scott and Matt Richards, who won gold at last year’s World Championships, also in the mix.

The British Championships at the London Aquatics Centre in April doubles as the Olympic trials and Dean acknowledges the strength in depth can only be a good thing.

“The Olympic trials is going to be just as hard as the Olympic Games,” Dean, who is set for a brief trip to Doha next month for a relay race at the World Championships, said.

“I need to make sure I stamp my ticket to Paris. It’s not going to be easy and everyone will be fighting their hardest to get on that team. That’s why we’re so strong on those relay events.”

In his quest for additional advantages, Dean, who won seven medals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and four at last year’s World Championships, has launched a podcast which will build towards the Olympics.

Titled ‘Tom Dean Medal Machine’, the double Olympic champion will sit down weekly with celebrity guests to pick their brains and see if he can glean anything from them that can help him in France.

“There’s a reason why people do sports psychology because it helps them tweak that area of your game, there’s a reason why you speak to a nutritionist to help that area of your game,” Dean added.

“Why can’t I speak to someone who’s stepped out on stage at a music festival in front of 20,000 people? I’ll be stepping out and performing in front of 20,000 people come Paris.

“I’m convinced there are things to be taken from every single different person who’s gone and done something like that.”

:: Tom Dean Medal Machine is available from 25th January, listen and follow here:

Related items

  • Olympic champion Yulimar Rojas suffers Achilles injury in training; out of Paris Games Olympic champion Yulimar Rojas suffers Achilles injury in training; out of Paris Games

    Olympic triple jump champion Yulimar Rojas has been ruled out of Paris 2024 with an Achilles tendon injury.

    The Venezuelan sustained the injury during a training session in Spain and has since undergone surgery in Madrid.

    Rojas, who is the current world record holder, won gold at the Games in Tokyo and is a four-time world champion.

    "My heart is broken and I want to say sorry that I will not be able to take part in Paris 2024," the 28-year-old said in a statement on her Instagram account.

    “Today, I feel very emotionally affected by not being able to represent the team. The desire to defend my Olympic title excited me enormously but today I have to stop, understand this, recover and come back with a lot of strength to continue flying together,” she added.

  • World Athletics introduces prize money for Olympic gold medallists World Athletics introduces prize money for Olympic gold medallists

    In a landmark decision, World Athletics has today (10 April) announced it will become the first international federation to award prize money at an Olympic Games, financially rewarding athletes for achieving the pinnacle of sporting success, starting at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

    A total prize pot of US$2.4 million has been ring fenced from the International Olympic Committee’s revenue share allocation, which is received by World Athletics every four years. This will be used to reward athletes who win a gold medal in each of the 48 athletics events in Paris with US$50,000.

    This initiative by World Athletics also includes a firm commitment to extend the prize money at a tiered level, to Olympic silver and bronze medal winners at the LA 2028 Olympic Games.

    When sharing details of the decision, World Athletics President Sebastian Coe commented: "The introduction of prize money for Olympic gold medallists is a pivotal moment for World Athletics and the sport of athletics as a whole, underscoring our commitment to empowering the athletes and recognizing the critical role they play in the success of any Olympic Games.

    “This is the continuation of a journey we started back in 2015, which sees all the money World Athletics receives from the International Olympic Committee for the Olympic Games go directly back into our sport.

    “We started with the Olympic dividend payments to our Member Federations, which saw us distribute an extra US$5m a year on top of existing grants aimed at athletics growth projects, and we are now in a position to also fund gold medal performances for athletes in Paris, with a commitment to reward all three medallists at the LA28 Olympic Games.

    “While it is impossible to put a marketable value on winning an Olympic medal, or on the commitment and focus it takes to even represent your country at an Olympic Games, I think it is important we start somewhere and make sure some of the revenues generated by our athletes at the Olympic Games are directly returned to those who make the Games the global spectacle that it is.”

    The payment of prize money will depend upon the World Athletics ratification process, including athletes undergoing and clearing the usual anti-doping procedures. Each individual Olympic champion will receive US$50,000. Relay teams will receive the same amount, to be shared among the team. The format and structure of the LA28 Olympic bonuses will be announced nearer the time.

  • I’m done – Max Whitlock announces Paris Olympics will be his final competition I’m done – Max Whitlock announces Paris Olympics will be his final competition

    Max Whitlock has announced this summer’s Paris Olympics will mark the end of his glittering gymnastics career after more than two decades of history-making moments and “muck-ups”.

    The 31-year-old, who has won three Olympic gold medals and three world titles, says he no longer fears life beyond the competitive side of the sport which drove him to become one of the greatest British athletes of his generation.

    And whether it involves his quest to extend that remarkable legacy, or to win games of ‘Pick a Pair’ with his five-year-old daughter Willow, who will watch him at an Olympics for the first time in Paris, Whitlock’s competitive fires continue to burn as ferociously as ever.

    “Working towards that end goal of my fourth and final Olympics is so exciting, and it will hopefully put me in a position to push the boundaries further, and make this final chapter the best it can possibly be,” Whitlock told the PA news agency.

    “To have the opportunity to do that in front of Willow feels amazing. I always said I wanted to continue until she was old enough to watch me in competitions, and I love that she will get that chance in Paris.

    “I get the feeling Willow is mega-proud. She loves going round telling people I’m the Olympic champion, and she thinks I win everything. Even when we’re playing ‘Pick a Pair’ together, my competitive instinct doesn’t stop.”

    Whitlock’s almost decade-long career as a global champion, starting when he edged out pommel rival Louis Smith to become Britain’s first individual world champion in Glasgow in 2015, has masked periods of struggle and self-doubt.

    “I’ve mucked up more times than a lot of people think,” insisted Whitlock, who missed out on a medal most recently at last year’s World Championships in Antwerp, where he came off the apparatus midway through his final routine.

    “I’ve been to so many competitions, so many European Championships, where I’ve not been able to achieve what I wanted.

    “But what it does is it massively hones you, it focuses you to go back into the gym and work on fixing things. Sometimes, it’s those mistakes that get you in the mindset to get where you want to be.”

    Whitlock won two Olympic gold medals – on floor and pommel – within two hours on an unforgettable Sunday afternoon in Rio, as well as defending his world crown in Montreal and Stuttgart in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

    But his fondest memory remains his first significant step on the global stage at London 2012, where he was part of a history-making bronze medal-winning men’s team and also took individual bronze on pommel, paving the way for his future exploits.

    “London was such a big thing for me, to be completely doubted but to come away with those bronze medals, and it gave me the motivation and inspiration that I could go on from there and compete anywhere,” recalled Whitlock.

    “I was approaching my prime and I felt invincible. The four years after London were amazing because it was about seeing how far I could take it. I felt like I was floating. If I hadn’t made London, my career might have turned out very differently.”

    Whitlock’s third Olympic gold, in an almost empty Ariake Arena in Tokyo, preceded 18 months of soul-searching, during which he privately struggled with the concept that his competitive career was drawing to a close.

    Almost three years on, however, his growing family and flourishing business, rolling out bespoke gymnastics courses for children, have given Whitlock renewed confidence that life without the constant calling to improve and excel can be equally rewarding.

    “I feel like I’ve learned from the hard-stop of the Tokyo experience, when I was adamant that I was never coming back,” continued Whitlock.

    “A lot of things weren’t really ticking the box. I had nothing to wake up to in the morning and think, ‘I’m going to work hard to try to achieve this.’ I’ve said I felt like a waste of space. But it’s different now.

    “I’m equally passionate about the business I’ve set up, that creates a massive impact among young children, and the two complement each other because the enthusiasm I get from that is helping me have a really positive outlook in the gym.

    “I know deep inside that Paris 2024 feels like the right time to say, ‘I’m done’. For 24 years I’ve been pushing to do everything I possibly can.

    “I’ve got one final opportunity to grab, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.