Maidenhead’s double Olympic swimming champion, Tom Dean is encouraging young people to get vaccinated after twice contracting the virus while preparing for the Tokyo Games.
The 21-year-old claimed gold in the 200m freestyle from compatriot Duncan Scott and was back in the pool a couple of days later to win his second gold medal with the 4x200m freestyle relay team.
However, his incredible success at his first ever Olympic Games wasn’t necessarily expected after his training plans were disrupted twice by catching COVID-19. At one stage he feared for his place on the GB Team as the virus left him ‘bedbound’ and unable to claim the stairs ‘without coughing and wheezing’. He lost up to six weeks of training in all but was able to get back to peak shape in time for the Games.
The University of Bath student is now double jabbed and is urging the general population to do likewise as a ‘high uptake across the board’ will increase the chances of finally defeating the virus.
“I was actually in isolation around this time last year,” he told BBC Berkshire. “In swimming if you take one day out of the pool, it takes two days to get back to where you were. It set me back a lot, and then I unfortunately got a second bout of COVID around the New Year time, and I had to take another isolation period, and then you have to do a slow build back into training.
“So, around January this year I thought I wasn’t even going to make the Olympics. I was bedbound for 10 days basically and, when you do a sport that relies so heavily on the cardiovascular system, your heart and lungs, I was coughing and wheezing going up the stairs and stuff and I was starting to question whether I’d be able to get back to the fitness levels that are required for this sport. It was not something that hit me lightly at all.
“I think the way vaccines work is that they require a high uptake across the board, so, it’s not just about protecting yourself. For all young people, not just sportspeople, it’s so, so important.
“Keeping fit and healthy is my job and it hit me really hard so, for the general population it’s so important that they get protected.”