Tom Dean faces hectic race schedule as he chases gold ahead of Paris Olympics

·4-min read
Commonwealth Games - Men's 200m Freestyle - Final - Medal Ceremony - Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Birmingham, Britain - July 30, 2022 Silver medallist England's Tom Dean celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov
Commonwealth Games - Men's 200m Freestyle - Final - Medal Ceremony - Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Birmingham, Britain - July 30, 2022 Silver medallist England's Tom Dean celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

By James Toney in Birmingham

Timing is everything and Tom Dean believes his hectic race schedule will pay dividends when it matters at the Paris Olympics.

Dean was one of the stars of last year's Tokyo Games winning 200m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle gold.

But he's set himself a punishing schedule for 2022 to will make your limbs ache just thinking about it, massively upping his mileage in training in a bid to be competitive in more events in 2024.

He won three bronze medals at the recent World Championships in Budapest, which has upgraded to five silvers here at the Sandwell Aquatic Centre.

Dean was edged out by Scotland's Duncan Scott in a reversal of the Olympic final result in the 200m freestyle but beat him over the blue-riband 100m distance tonight, only to find Australia's Kyle Chambers went quicker.

He later joined forces with James Guy, Jacob Whittle and Joe Litchfield for another second in the 4x200m freestyle relay, again Australia taking gold.

“Five Commonwealth medals isn’t a setback in my eyes," said Dean, who is one of over 1,100 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme, allowing them to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.

"It’s a stepping stone towards the Olympics, that’s the pinnacle of this sport. The home crowd is incredible and the Commonwealths are important but the Olympics takes precedence in terms of our schedule. It’s the first step in a two or three year journey.

“It’s a tough programme and adding events can add three swims with heats, semis and finals. I’m trying to push myself to the max, 40 races in the space of two months is demanding but we’re doing it now to fine tune for Paris.”

Adam Peaty returned to the pool for the 50m breaststroke semi-finals, still smarting from his first defeat in eight years in the 100m breaststroke the previous night.

It's the only major medal missing from his collection but he'll need to find more to beat Australia's Sam Williamson, the quickest qualifier, on Tuesday.

Peaty questioned his love for swimming after the heats and then the starter after booking his final place, claiming swimmers were being held too long on their blocks.

"It was the same in the 100m and the heats and semis of the 50m, either need to change what they are doing or change the starter," he said.

Elsewhere, Abbie Wood admits she needs to get used to crowds again after banking her fourth medal at the Commonwealth Games.

The return of fans to sport has been one of the many positive things about these Games in Birmingham, with this sparkling new swim venue packed to the rafter each night.

But the 23-year-old from Buxton admits the noise takes some getting used too.

She made her breakthrough in an International Swimming League season staged behind closed doors and competed at the Tokyo Olympics last year without fans in the stands, where she finished 11 hundredths off a medal in a lifetime best.

After two relay silvers and one bronze, Wood finished third in the women's 200m medley final, clocking 2:10.68 to finish just behind Australia's Kaylee McKeown and Canadian gold medallist Summer McIntosh.

“I feel such a weight lifted off my shoulders," she said. "After the season I’ve had, I’m really happy with that and it’s a sigh of relief.

“I didn’t feel pressure from anyone intentionally but I had my family here and I wanted to do well for them. It has been a good step for my confidence that I can do it without a crowd.

“It’s a season’s best, I couldn’t ask for any more after such a hard cycle post-Olympics. Fourth there hit me so to get it together for this week, I’m really happy. It was pretty much go-go-go after the Olympics so I’m definitely having a nice break after this, celebrating with my family.”

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