Tom Dean has no regrets about going public with Paris 2024 ambitions

By Sports Desk April 16, 2024

Tom Dean insists he has no regrets about making public the extent of his Paris 2024 ambitions despite a setback at this month’s British Championship that left his quest to claim five medals in the French capital hanging by a thread.

The 23-year-old bullishly proclaimed his plan to seek to eclipse his long-term rival Duncan Scott as the most prolific British athlete at a single Games shortly after surging to prominence by winning double gold in Tokyo.

But third-place finishes behind Scott and Matt Richards in both the 100 and 200 metre freestyle finals mean Dean is only certain to compete in one individual event – the 200m medley – plus two relays, unless either of his rivals choose to streamline their Paris hopes.

Dean told the PA news agency: “When you put yourself out there it comes with the risk of being exposed and falling short, and it makes the feats of those incredible champions who make the claims and go out and back them up all the more impressive.

“It was a conscious decision and a source of motivation. I had a long conversation with my coach and my agent and we decided it was something we wanted to do. It is very much still on – there is a lot of individual and relay potential in Paris – and it’s still at the forefront of my mind.”

Dean is the first to admit there are parallels between his own decision to go public and Adam Peaty’s ‘Project 56’, in which he made plain his drive to smash the 57-second mark in the 100m breaststroke, and subsequently to go on to set a world record that could never be beaten.

Like Dean, Peaty has endured a recent rollercoaster, picking up a relatively disappointing pair of bronze medals at the World Championships in Doha in February, although he bounced back by booking his berth in Paris with his fastest time since winning his second straight Olympic gold in Tokyo.

“There’s not an ounce of arrogance or over-confidence about it,” said Dean. “It’s us going out and saying, we’re the only people who have won individual gold medals, we’ve won world and Commonwealth golds, and we have the belief that we can go and do it again.

“It’s what puts the fire in your belly, it’s what gets you up in the morning and pushes you on. That’s how I’ve been feeling since I came home from Tokyo, which feels like two days ago. I want to go out and win as many medals as possible.”

The notion of adversity is a strictly relative one for Dean, who overcame two bouts of Covid at the start of the delayed Tokyo Olympics year, which forced him to spend seven weeks away from training and left his hopes of even reaching the Japanese capital in serious doubt.

The rest is history as Dean went on to become the first British swimmer to win two golds at the same Games in 113 years, his subsequent record-breaking medal haul at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games sealing his place in the spotlight and culminated in him being awarded an MBE by Princess Anne.

For Dean, being pipped by two world-class rivals is an inevitable result of being part of one of the most competitive freestyle eras – and one of the most promising domestic relay squads – for many decades in the sport.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough at the moment to put a positive spin on things, but I’ve always been able to do that and even if it still feels a little bit raw, there’s plenty of good things to focus on for France.

“Adam is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the British field, while my events are the most competitive in the world. I’ve been on the podium with Duncan and Matt so many times and we are separated by just a few hundredths of a second.

“Again, it’s how you deal with that level of competition that will define you. I think the fear of failure is something that could be positive or negative. It’s the spin that you put on it – if you use it to your benefit, that’s when you can become pretty unstoppable.”

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