For young athletes with an eye on Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028, this summer has been a valuable learning experience.
Despite being a Games like no other, Tokyo 2020 has given athletes with their own Olympic and Paralympic dreams the chance to study how Britain and the world’s finest athletes prepare, perform and react in the glare of the Games spotlight.
We’ve asked a number of our younger members what lessons they have learnt from Tokyo, that they are intent on putting into practice as the Paris Games begin to come into view over the next few years. Here, swimmer Katie Shanahan tells of her experiences of watching her team-mates earn a record medal haul.
“My first vivid memories of the Olympic games were in 2016. I remember watching the swimming from Rio on the TV and realising then that my ambition was to one day be part of Team GB.
“Fast forward to Tokyo and that ambition, dream, desire is permanently at the forefront of my mind. I now understand the sport of swimming and what it takes to make a team. This time I watched in awe of the athletes as I know the hard work and sacrifices that have gone into them getting to Tokyo.
“I watched and wanted to learn as much as possible from the athletes, not only about how they swim, but their attitudes out of the water too.
“I recently had the pleasure and opportunity of being part of a British Swimming team with the whole Olympic squad, and a few other upcoming juniors, when we competed at the European Championships in Budapest back in May.
“Being around these top athletes enabled me to learn from them in the pool while they trained, watch them race and execute their race plans and also, more importantly, allowed me to watch how they behave out of the pool. There is no better way to learn than to observe and talk with those that are the best at what they do.
“Going into the Games, I was extremely excited to see how the team would swim, especially since I had already been on a team with them and got to know them. I didn’t even mind setting my alarm at 2.30am every morning so I could watch the events live and cheer on my role models.
“I think the biggest inspiration I took from watching the Games was how well the swimmers spoke and conducted themselves during the post-race interviews. No matter how they swam, no matter the emotion, every one of them came out and spoke with vast amounts of humility and pride. I think a lot of aspiring Olympic swimmers can learn a lot from watching these interviews; I definitely have.
“Similarly, another great learning experience was watching the team relays. Each relay team member genuinely raced for the team and not for themselves. They all showed determination and grit and produced their best swims ever.
“There is a lot to learn from these relays and it shows the next generation that swimming isn’t a solo sport but very much a team one. Even in individual races, you’re part of a team, as everyone supports each other. This was very much on show at the Olympics.
“Once the games were over I was more eager than ever to get back in the pool and to start training again. Paris 2024 is only three years away and I am taking what I have learned from watching the Tokyo Olympics, and the amazing athletes, and using my insights to determine my future. The hard work starts now.”