Rower Thomas backed for Tokyo in 2020
Olympic gold medal-winning rower Scott Durant has backed fellow Lancastrian Graeme Thomas to bounce back from his Rio heartbreak.
Preston sculler Thomas was left devastated after illness ended his hopes of competing for Olympic glory in Brazil.
A member of GB men’s quadruple scull team, the former Corpus Christi High School pupil had arrived in Rio alongside team-mates Peter Lambert, Sam Townsend and Angus Groom.
However, just a week before he was due to race in the heats, Thomas was left bedridden for more than two days after a sudden bout of flu-like symptoms.
Despite being on the road to recovery, British Rowing performance director Sir Dave Tanner took the uneviable decision to pull the 27-year-old out of the Games on medical advice and replace him with Sam Beaumont.
Without Thomas – who finished second in the British Olympic trials in April – the team finished outside of the medals in a disappointing fifth spot.
Durant – who claimed gold in the men’s coxed eight – admitted Thomas’ pain was felt by everyone within the close-knit GB rowing camp.
But he has backed Thomas, who missed out on selection at the London Games in 2012, to finally realise his Olympic dream in Tokyo in 2020.
“That was really bad,” said Durant, who is from Lancaster.
“Graeme is such a great character in the team and it was a real shame what happened to him.
“He is so talented and to get ill like he did was such a blow for him.
“That’s the thing, you spend four years thinking, ‘All I have got to do is get there’.
“Then once you have been selected you think, ‘I’m there, all I need to do it get on the plane and I’m an Olympian – it’s done’.
“But to be sent home after you have already arrived in Rio must have been awful for him and everyone on the team felt for him.
“You would not wish that on your worst enemy.
“But Graeme is just one of those people who will just crack on with it.
“He does not beat about the bush – he’s already back on the water looking towards the next thing.”