The curtain has come down on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – and what a Games it was, for Team GB and for British Swimming.
Here, British Swimming CEO Jack Buckner gives his reflections on a historic fortnight of aquatics, as well as looking ahead to the upcoming Paralympic Games and the exciting future beyond that...
We are so proud of each and every one of our athletes, not only for their incredible success in the water, but also their outstanding conduct out of it. Their excellence and humility has been clear for all to see over the last few weeks.
It was an amazing Olympics. I felt this was building for a few years, but for everything to come together as it did was truly memorable, and testament to everyone involved in British Swimming who have laid the foundations for this success. I want to give a special thanks to all the coaches, staff, volunteers and our partners – you have all played an invaluable role in helping us produce Britain’s best swimming performance ever at an Olympic Games, including a first gold-silver for Britain in the pool since 1908 in the Men's 200m Freestyle and a world record in the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay.
On top of that, there was a trio of diving medals – including that brilliant Men’s 10m Synchro gold for Tom Daley and Matty Lee – and fine British representation in artistic and marathon swimming too.
To wake the country up four mornings in a week to a gold medal was a special experience – every late night or early start was more than worth it! It was a long build-up to Tokyo, but to see the nation all fall in love with the Olympics again, it was wonderful to see.
So much work went in throughout that build-up across our National Centres at Bath and Loughborough, the Performance Centres in Stirling and Swansea and diving centres including London, Leeds and Edinburgh, with coaches and support staff across those venues adapting superbly in unique and challenging circumstances.
The National Lottery funding has been absolutely critical to the success and the outstanding performances we have seen in the pool and on the diving boards in Tokyo. A little bit of those medals belongs to everyone who has bought a National Lottery ticket, because without them we wouldn’t have even been able to get a team on a plane to Tokyo.
Close work with partners including UK Sport remains vital to our success. Events in Manchester, Sheffield, London and Glasgow in the lead up to the Games provided essential opportunities for our athletes to experience an authentic race environment. We have all been working consistently towards fostering a strong and healthy team culture, and the teamwork shown over the last five years gave us the platform to succeed in Tokyo, and puts us in a good place to continue improving.
We are so excited for the future, starting immediately with the Paralympics on 24th August. As some of our athletes returned back to the UK, almost every single person I spoke to was delighted with what we’d achieved together but insisted we can do more in Paris 2024. There was no sense of complacency, and they were ready to talk about what we do next – though they have certainly earned a break!
It’s important to remember that 24 of our swimming team across the pool and marathon events and seven of our divers were Olympic debutants, including a significant number whose senior international debut for Britain came as recently as May’s European Championships. They have each shown incredible maturity to perform at the highest level, and we believe this team will only get better and better.
Once again, I come back to the Olympic values that each of our athletes have demonstrated over the last few weeks. One of the most important contributions to our success is the unity and sense of togetherness that we have managed to build - family and friends have mattered more than ever in an Olympics without crowds. In Tokyo, they’ve had to be there for each other at every moment – and they more than stepped up.
Above all, I am immeasurably proud of all associated with British Swimming, and so grateful for the amazing support of the swimming family throughout the Olympic Games. We couldn’t have done it without it you – and we will see you in two weeks’ time to do it all over again for an extremely exciting Paralympics.