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.
DOUBLE OLYMPIC CHAMPION
We’ve made history out here 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/1giHzdsci3
— Tom Dean (@tomdean00) July 29, 2021
“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: https://www.globalplayer.com/podcasts/42KweB/