Devastated rower Graeme Thomas has vowed to come back stronger than ever after illness left his Rio Olympic dreams in tatters.
The 27-year-old ace from Preston touched down on South American soil on Saturday ready to add his name to the list of sporting greats who have won Olympic gold.
After seven years of dedication and training, Thomas was selected as a member of Team GB’s quadruple scull team alongside Peter Lambert, Sam Townsend and Angus Groom.
However, after arriving in Brazil, Thomas was struck down by a flu-like virus and the decision was taken on Monday to withdraw him from the team and replace him with Jack Beaumont.
The decision to pull him out of the Games has angered Thomas, who felt he would have recovered in time for Saturday’s heats.
His brother Alistair admitted Thomas is still coming to terms with the brutality of his de-selection, but believes the events of the past few days will spur him on even more to achieve his Olympic ambition in four years’ time in Tokyo.
“I spoke to my brother before he flew out and he was feeling good,” said Alistair.
“But as soon as he arrived in Rio, he started having flu-like symptoms. He woke up in the middle of the night with a high temperature, high heart rate, sweating.
“They isolated him on Sunday and then on Monday evening, the call was made that he was not going to race.
“I think the thing that has hit him the most is how early they made the call.
“It was only Monday and he still felt he would have been on form on Saturday. Physically, it seems like he has already started to recover from his illness.
“He’s not stupid – he would say if he was not right to race but the fact that he was really pushing to still be on the team would suggest that he felt he was on the mend.
“He’s pretty distraught about it all as you can imagine and we were pretty worried that what has happened would knock him off the sport altogether, but it seems like it’s had the opposite effect.
“It looks like he has already focused on Tokyo – which would appear unbelievable to most people – but that’s his next goal, his next target.”
One of the biggest frustrations for Thomas is that he and his team-mates were genuine medal contenders.
“They have been one of the boats to beat over the last few years,” said Alistair. “I think most people were backing them to have something hanging around their neck.”
In a further cruel twist, Thomas will not be allowed to stay in Rio and support his team-mates.
“He’s been completely de-accredited as an athlete and has been forced to fly home. He is due back home within the next 36 hours,” said Alistair.