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Tom Bosworth hits back as he aims for race walk gold

by 12/08/2017 18:53:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Tom Bosworth is one of the last British hopes for a World Championships medal
  • He finished sixth in the Rio Olympics and has a chance in the 50km race walk
  • Bosworth knows if he delivers, the sport may gain a little more public momentum

By Riath Al-samarrai for The Mail on Sunday

Published: 17:29 EDT, 12 August 2017 | Updated: 18:53 EDT, 12 August 2017

There's a story from the Seventies involving an air rifle and a wiggling backside that goes some way to explaining where race walking once stood in athletics.

The tale goes that Dave Bedford, maverick hero of British distance running, was on his balcony in St Moritz when he saw Paul Nihill, his walking countryman, go by. He reached for the air gun and the rest is an anecdote that has endured.

Today the discipline is out of the firing line and rather less mocked, with Tom Bosworth one of the last credible hopes for a World Championships medal in a British team that has under-performed.

Tom Bosworth is one of the last credible British hopes for a World Championships medal
Tom Bosworth is one of the last credible British hopes for a World Championships medal

Tom Bosworth is one of the last credible British hopes for a World Championships medal

He finished sixth in the Rio Olympics and has been identified as a  medal threat in the race walk
He finished sixth in the Rio Olympics and has been identified as a  medal threat in the race walk

He finished sixth in the Rio Olympics and has been identified as a medal threat in the race walk

Bosworth knows if he delivers, the sport may gain a little more momentum in the public eye
Bosworth knows if he delivers, the sport may gain a little more momentum in the public eye

Bosworth knows if he delivers, the sport may gain a little more momentum in the public eye

He finished sixth in the Rio Olympics and has been identified by the Chinese as a key medal threat in the 50km race walk. If he delivers, the sport may gain a little more momentum in the public consciousness.

He said: 'People say, why walk when you can run but why breaststroke when you can front crawl? People say it's a case of who can whisper the loudest. Well, have you actually tried race walking? Running is easy - running is for people who can't race walk.'

It's delivered tongue in cheek, but also with the passion of an athlete who is a magnificent advocate for his sport and whose time in breaking the world mile record last month - five minutes 31 seconds - would surprise the uninitiated.

Bosworth’s profile has grown, partially due to proposing to his boyfriend on Copacabana
Bosworth’s profile has grown, partially due to proposing to his boyfriend on Copacabana

Bosworth's profile has grown, partially due to proposing to his boyfriend on Copacabana

'Walking is the most popular sport in the world, screw football, walking is, it really is,' added Bosworth. 'This is where I want to take the event, Park Runs and the like.

'Things are starting to change. BBC Sport really promoted that mile on social media as well - 'Can you run a mile as fast as this guy walks it?' - and that's how I see the event building.'

Quite aside from building the sport, Bosworth's profile has grown significantly, partially due to Rio but also from the publicity surrounding his proposal to his boyfriend on Copacabana Beach. 

'There is more attention,' he said. 'When I got my accreditation, people were like, 'Tom Bosworth is here'. I'm like, 'Oh s***' a bit.

'I don't feel the pressure but people are mentioning it. I didn't realise I was going to be on the Jess Ennis-Hill 'Next Generation' programme. When people texted me saying I was on telly, I was asking, 'What for?' 

'I remember the commentary on the marathon and they wouldn't shut up about me. I had to watch that on mute because it was making me nervous, but it is good that people are starting to talk about it. People think highly of me, which is brilliant, but all I've said this year is I want to back up Rio.'

Bosworth is very outspoken: ‘Walking is the most popular sport in the world, screw football'
Bosworth is very outspoken: ‘Walking is the most popular sport in the world, screw football'

Bosworth is very outspoken: 'Walking is the most popular sport in the world, screw football'

Bosworth knows he has a medal opening, with the Russians out due to their doping ban
Bosworth knows he has a medal opening, with the Russians out due to their doping ban

Bosworth knows he has a medal opening, with the Russians out due to their doping ban

Doing so will involve a scaled-down challenge, given the Russians are out owing to their doping ban.

Bosworth said of that: 'In the walks community nobody ever did bite their tongue, it just took the rest of track and field to catch up. Our event has been tarnished by cheating and now, thanks to the IAAF, they're doing some good.'

He is also sceptical about football's chances of dealing with homophobia, drawing the link between what is often a poisonous environment at matches and the absence of openly gay players.

He said: 'What is it about that environment that makes you feel so comfortable - too comfortable - in saying things that you would never dream of saying in the work place or down the pub? 

'Yet people feel free to put it on social media behind a screen and do it in a stadium. Stop a second. Would you do this to your colleague? You'd lose your job.

'I believe it's down to the football clubs. I don't know whether we will ever see an out footballer in the current situation. Something has to be done about it for somebody to feel comfortable enough to come out.'

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