Tonbridge Olympian Tom Bosworth announces retirement from race walking ahead of Commonwealth Games

  • From an Olympic proposal, to breaking world records, race walker Tom Bosworth reflects on an incredible career as he announces his retirement. He's been speaking to ITV News Meridian's Joe Coshan.

Tom Bosworth joined Tonbridge Athletics club aged 11, and in his words was "awful at everything".

Almost 20 years on, aged 32, the double Olympic race walker is retiring - even though he still holds three world records.

"The Commonwealth Games will be my last proper major race on home turf, he said.

"When I first started athletics, I just did it for fun and fitness, and I think my mum just wanted me out of the house to be perfectly honest.

"I never dreamt that I would become a professional athlete and be able to do the sport as a job. So for me it was always about 'I can do this for as long as I enjoy it and as long as I'm still progressing.'

"But my body isn't quite what it was and it's starting to hurt me every single day. I've already surpassed all my dreams and so for me now it was like, I want to go out on my terms and keep my body in one piece."

Tom Bosworth (right) competing in one of his first races at Tonbridge Athletics Club aged 11
Tom Bosworth winnong his 8th UK race walking title at the British Championships last month. Credit: British Athletics

Tom's modesty is refreshing and inspiring, especially considering his decision to retire comes less than a fortnight since winning his 8th UK title. He scooped gold in Manchester in the 5000m race walk, completing it in sub-19minutes.

"When I started athletics, I wasn't any good at race walking or long jump or anything, I just did it for fun.

"The sport is unique, but a lot of people give it a go after they've tried running, perhaps they struggle with injuries, but the technique holds you back and it's a real limiter.

"Once you get that, then you can hopefully walk faster than some people can run."

The moment Tom realised he'd broken the 1-mile race walk world record in London. Credit: Tom Bosworth

The Highs

Tom's speaking to ITV News Meridian in front of the Olympic Stadium in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - not where he competed as an Olympian, but a special place, where he broke two world records at the Muller Anniversary Games.

He added: "I was gutted ten years ago when I wasn't able to compete at the London Olympic Games. I came very close, but for me it was the start of something, a turning point.

"It made me hungry to make sure I never missed a championships again, and obviously I was able to compete at Rio in 2016 and in Tokyo.

"But also for me, it's about leaving a bit of a legacy.

"I don't want my records to last forever because it means we haven't had anybody else at my level and that's something I've wanted to do for years - not just raise the profile of the sport but raise the level of race walking in our country.

"And now if someone wants to break my British records, they have to reach that level."

Tom's 2nd World Record at the 2018 Anniversary Games in London. Credit: Tom Bosworth
Tom Bosworth winning silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. Credit: Tom Bosworth

The world records are just a couple in a long list of Tom's fondest memories over his athletics career.

They also include co-captaining Team England, breaking a British record, and winning silver at the last Commonwealth Games in Australia.

Perhaps his greatest memory was proposing to his partner Harry at the Rio Olympic Games. So what was he more nervous for - competing at an Olympics or getting down on one knee?

The Lows

The five rings are a core memory for any Olympian, they represent unity between the nations that first competed at the games. The two rings on Tom and Harry's hand represent a similar bond - that has stood strong, even in their darkest moments.

Tom has spoken very candidly about his mental health struggles that followed after a heartbreaking race at the World Championships, where he was disqualified. Tom went into the race as a favourite, but that crushing blow sent his mental health spiralling, and his training plan out of the window.

Then Harry stepped in.

"I never really understood what it was like to kind of be a professional athlete because I never thought it'd be something that I would achieve. As the success came, I just I just kept going with it and suddenly my life was just purely about athletics.

"I spent a lot of time away from home, a lot of time away from my family and away from Harry and when things start to go wrong, it starts to unravel quite quickly.

"When it's all going well, that's great, but as soon as you kind of take a step back and realise that I had nothing else in my life except for that it was it was a bit of a scary awakening, really.

"It was a huge lesson to me that I had to put in place things for for the rest of my life and not push away those people who will always be there at the end of the career like they were at the start."

Tom Bosworth with his partner Harry Dineley.
Tom with his mum and dad.

The Future

Tom says he's looking forward to some 'normality' in his life and being able to attend friends birthdays, holidays, and weddings - including his own later this year. But could we see Tom back on our screens, or even in the jungle?

"I am somebody who says yes to everything. I'm always up for a challenge and my personality, I think, has taken me quite a long way in my career. So I hope you will certainly be seeing me a lot more as we go forward and you never know what's around the corner."

The Tonbridge born athlete has left a lasting legacy, putting race walking on the map. His message to young people:

"Whether it's sport, music or anything, just keep turning up and keep doing it. If you enjoy it, who knows where it can take you."