How Will Tom Dean Assemble his Medal High 5 for Paris?

It’s not all that often we see British competitors in any sport come out and state outwardly and with certainty what their goals are for an Olympic year. Whether it’s good old fashioned British modesty, not wanting to give anything away, or simply a case of wanting to let their performance do the talking, many swimmers keep their goals close to their chest.

There are of course exceptions; Adam Peaty is a prime example with his stated ambitions to attack his second Olympic gold in Tokyo or to set blistering world records lingering in the memory. But it was still a bit of a surprise to hear Tom Dean publicly announce he was aiming to win 5 medals in Paris this summer and in doing so eclipse the British record for medals at a single games held by his teammate Duncan Scott who pocketed four in Tokyo.

Dean deserves credit both for being so open with his goals and for taking an opportunity to raise his and the sport’s profile in the one year of a cycle where it can attract wider attention than normal. That he’s also documenting how he’s going about his quest as part of a podcast series adds an element of risk to the venture – after all the attempt could fall flat at trials and not even survive long enough to be tested in Paris waters.

And therein lies the nub of the matter – at no point to date has Tom confirmed where he thinks he can win those medals. We can of course have a good guess, and entries for trials confirmed there was no last minute left field addition of the 200m breaststroke or similar, so here’s where the most likely events lie, with relays sure to make up the majority.

Tom will be looking to repeat his Tokyo 200 free medal winning exploits in Paris. Pic: Speedo/Simone Castrovillari

200m freestyle: The obvious place to start – after all he’s the defending Olympic champion and sine that gold his medal record in this event when reads world LC bronze, commonwealth silver, world SC bronze, and world LC silver, so he is nothing if not consistent. But he has to get there first – the competition for the two spaces will be red hot at British Championships and he could just as easily finish first as fourth – but if he makes the grade at trials it’s a good bet he can make the top 3.

Verdict: If he comes through the fire of GB selection, as good a chance as most for the top 3

200m Individual medley: A much easier route to selection one would think, with Dean and Scott a step ahead of the domestic competition, but a tougher ask once the Games roll around. Bronze at the 2023 world championships shows that this is an achievable one, but its likely that it won’t be enough to rely on a blistering closing split as he did in that race to repeat the feat in Paris

Verdict: Remains a chance, but will need a step up from Fukuoka

100 Freestyle: It’s not clear if this is an event where Dean harbours realistic individual ambitions and it may be that this is more a means to getting in the mix for relay selections. Even if he does make the top 2, which is not entirely out of the question, the competition in Paris will be intense and a medal winning outcome seems unlikely.

Verdict: A very long shot at the Olympic podium

4x 200m freestyle relay: Barring injury or mishap it’s expected that Dean will form a key part of the quartet that will see to defence their Olympic title. While the gap to the rest of the bunch has narrowed substantially in recent years, making gold far from a foregone conclusion, it would be a huge upset if this team didn’t pick up a top 3 placing.

Verdict: As close to a banker for the podium as you can get in Olympic sport

World champions in 2023, the 4×200 will want to do likewise in Paris. Pic: British Swimming

4x 100m freestyle relay: Again it would be a surprise if Dean was not in the mix for this team after trials – while less clear he makes the top 4 for direct selection he can be called upon anyway once on the team for Paris. This is an event with huge potential as was hinted at at the 2023 world championships. It’s not a guaranteed medal by any means but they have the potential to do something very special and can not be counted our of the medal mix.

Verdict: A huge opportunity to be grasped

4x 100 medley relay – men’s or mixed: And here are the big questions. While the first 4 medal shots seem fairy uncomplicated to predict, this is where he might need a helping hand. At this range it seems most likely that Matt Richards and Anna Hopkin would anchor these teams in their respective finals, so Dean may be banking on a medal via a heat swim to make up his 5. However the GB selectors have shown themselves to be very risk averse in relay selections, and in particular it seems highly unlikely that there would be a shift of tactics in the mixed team, even for the heats, with a likely FMMF line up. That conservatism may yet edge them towards Richards for the men’s medley relay heats, which do of course take place 36 hours before the final, as well. If this is indeed the final piece of the jigsaw, Dean may need a favour from the selectors to slot it into place.

Verdict: There are two potential medals for these teams, but will the selectors play ball?

The high five can certainly be done, and intriguingly there is an almost equal chance that Scott could win five medals and in the same events, but by contrast, if he’s thinking that, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest.

For either of them to reach those heights, it is likely to rely on everything going to plan and the willingness of the selectors to facilitate it. For those following the journey to the Games it does, though, add a welcome extra layer of interest.