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  • Writer's pictureJosh Oldridge

Athletes in dark places: Tom Bosworth

I'm a big athletics fan. And although the prestige of the latest elite competition - the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar - has been tarnished somewhat by issues of doping and placement of the tournament in a country which has been recently under the spotlight for accusations of human rights violations, the tournament had some great moments. For Team GB, Dina Asher-Smith's three medals, including gold in the 200m, as well as Kat Johnson-Thompson's phenomenal heptathlon win were two stand-outs.

But I'm absolutely thrilled for Tom Bosworth's seventh-place finish in the 20km walk race this Friday just gone. I had the privilege of seeing the multiple British record-holder (the guy can walk 20km in under 80 minutes) in the flesh at Sheffield's Institute of Sport a few years back, where he blew away the rest of the field. But I also experienced the heartbreak of watching him on the telly as he was disqualified on home soil at the 2017 World Championships in London. While leading the field and on course for a medal in one of the most important races of his life, Bosworth was shown a third red card for three violations (basically, lifting the back foot before the front foot is planted, whence both feet are off the floor at the same time and the action is classed as a run). He was immediately heartbroken as an official stepped out to show him his third red - even hugging said official after he appeared to be inconsolable at what had happened. He collapsed to the roadside in tears. But a little while later, heartbreak turned sinister.

At the end of last year, at just 28-years-old, Bosworth considered taking his own life. Twice. Considering how just two years previous, at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, he proposed to his partner on the beach at Cocacobana, and his partner said yes in what was, for Tom, one of the greatest days in his life, his story shows the fragility of happiness. How sensitive people are. How much pressure there is in representing a nation and feeling as though you've let people down. The disqualification in 2017 played a major part in Tom's downward spiral into depression. He gave a very frank and open interview about this for the BBC in the build-up to this year's tournament in Doha.

Tom is a big believer in people opening up more. He is one of Britain's only openly gay athletes, and he was eager to press home the need for people to be frank about mental health. If we hadn't, as a nation, started the conversations we are having about mental health issues, Tom Bosworth - British record-holding athlete - says he may well not be competing any longer today. Instead, because he was honest about the way he felt, Tom is now happy, getting back to good form, and - provided he stays injury-free - he'll be at the Olympic Games in Toyko next year. All the best to him. He's a world-class athlete and inspirer (and although he's originally from Kent, he's been based in Leeds for many years so is kinda a Yorkshireman, which is also terrific!).

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