Tom Lancashire - Bolton's 2012 Olympic 1500m medal hopeful
Bolton boy Tom Lancashire is under starter's orders for the London Olympics. He talks about his career to Emma Alsop
The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Lancashire Life
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It was one of the toughest decisions of Tom Lancashire’slife – the chance study medicine or risking all as a full-time athlete.
If, as expected, Bolton born and bred Tom lines up in the 1500 metres at this year’s London Olympics and does himself justice on the track his sacrifice will have been worthwhile.
The lad from Turton High School has come a long way since his talent was spotted as an 11-year-old. A coach saw his potential when he was competing in his home town cross country championship. Running, he says, always came naturally to him but there was a long, slow slog ahead of him.
‘It wasn’t until I was about 15 or 16 that I started having success on a national stage,’ says Tom, whose mother comes from Mauritius. And it was only at 17 that he quit other sports to concentrate on running.
Tom made the huge decision to put his running before his education, deferring two years at Manchester University to study medicine and instead travelling to Florida on an athletics scholarship.
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The move proved to be a massive boost as he was able to compete in a new environment against tougher opponents. ‘After that second year I thought I still wanted to stay there - Florida was hard to leave,’ says Tom, who lists Eric Cantona and Roy Keane among his sporting heroes.
‘In the end I had to say I wasn’t going to take the college place and decided I wanted to make a career out of running. That’s where I am now.’ Once his athletics career is over he hopes to resume his medical training but until then Tom is determined to make it to the top.
With the London Olympics just months away, Tom feels more excited than nervous about performing in front of a home crowd.
‘It’s always nice to have some familiarity when I’m racing. When you’re running in a foreign country, there is no one you know in the crowd,’ he says. ‘I think that’s more scary than having people you know watching you.’
Although this isn’t his first Olympic Games, Tom feels this time it is going to be even more special. ‘I can only imagine competing in your home country - it is going to be ten times more special. It’s a massive thing for the whole country, and something people can really get behind.
‘For me I’m just desperate to be there. It’ll be a massive boost to run in the stadium in front of all those home fans.’ In 2008, he came a disappointing seventh at the Beijing games, describing his bewildermentat the scale of the competition. ‘Just being an athlete therefelt like you’re on top of the world,’ he adds.
He faced several set backs this year including an illness which put himout of training for months. However, Tom has bounced back more determined than ever. ‘It’s definitely given me a lot of drive and motivation to push on and not take anything for granted.’
With his parents still living in the family home in Bolton, Tom receives heaps of support from Lancashire, particularly in his hometown. ‘It’s a great place to run down by the reservoir and if people recognise me they say good luck.’
With a group of brilliant Kenyan runner headed by Nixon Chepseba setting the pace in 1500 metres, Tom will need every once of luck.Let’s hope he brings a medal home to Lancashire.