Two-Time Olympic Medallist Takes Us Behind The Scenes Of Tokyo 2020
We’re used to seeing shots of athletes wrapped up in their sporting events, discussing their efforts and collecting medals if they’ve managed to secure a place in the top three, but when it comes to the Olympics there’s a whole lot more going on than what we see on screen.
Some of the very best athletes from across the globe have been giving it their all at Tokyo 2020 over the past two weeks, and after securing two medals for Team GB, first-time Olympian Luke Greenbank revealed exactly what it was like to be at the iconic games.
Following delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, Luke told UNILAD it was ‘absolutely incredible’ to finally get out to Tokyo, if a ‘little bit surreal’.
The athlete, from Cockermouth, Cumbria, formed part of Britain’s swim team, which this year enjoyed its best-ever Olympics, with Luke securing a bronze medal in the men’s 200m backstroke final and a silver through the men’s 4×100 metres medley relay final along with teammates Adam Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott.
Things began to feel ‘a bit more real’ for Luke once he got into the Olympic village, though he admitted it was ‘weird seeing so many people in one place after the year we’ve had’. He spotted the likes of Andy Murray and Tom Daley, though noted that athletes from other countries weren’t allowed to enter each other’s apartment blocks due to coronavirus regulations.
Still, the swimmer enjoyed spending time with his teammates in the apartments, which housed six or seven people, describing his fellow athletes as a ‘good group of lads’. While you might expect Olympians to spend their evenings thinking about strategy or competitors, Luke and his teammates actually just hung out and ‘played cards every night, watched some films’ while making sure to remain respectful to those with upcoming events.
He told UNILAD, ‘It almost at some points doesn’t really feel like you’re at the Olympics, it just feels like you’re messing around with your mates. Obviously it’s a very professional environment, but at the same time you need that downtime, and I think that’s really important to allow you to perform well.’
Though the Olympic village has shops and activities to keep the athletes entertained in their spare time, Luke noted that ‘you want to conserve your energy’. He was lucky to enjoy an ‘amazing view of the harbour’ from his apartment, with some of his downtime involving the surprisingly chilled activity of sitting on the balcony, people-watching, and enjoying the sunset.
When it came time for Luke to take on his first event, the heat of his 100m backstroke, he knew he’d ‘done all the hard work and the training’, and that there was ‘nothing [he] could really do to change the result’. An accomplished athlete, ready to prove himself to the world – once he figured out where he was going, that is.
The first race I did, I walked out and the pool is enormous and there’s like three different pools within the complex… but I couldn’t work out where I was [meant to be] in the pool, so I walked out and I didn’t know which end of the pool I was at, I didn’t know what lane I was in – it was all a bit confusing that first time.
Thankfully the 23-year-old soon found his bearings and settled in, and though he was ‘a bit nervous’, it was an ‘excited nervous’ stemming from the knowledge that all he could do was ‘compose [himself] and just make sure [he] put [his] best effort in’.
Though there were no crowds at the Olympics this year, swimmers who weren’t competing were allowed to fill the stands and cheer their teammates on in the finals, meaning there was ‘always loads of noise coming from the stands’ not only from Team GB, but also from the other countries.
Luke had ‘quite high hopes going in to the games’, but when he touched the wall in the 200m backstroke final and realised he was an Olympic medallist, the first thought that went through his head was, ‘Wow, I can’t quite believe that.’
His success still hadn’t really sunk in by the time he stepped on to the podium to receive his medal, and he admitted he ‘kind of felt a little bit out of place’, thinking ‘what am I doing here?’. A week later it’s starting to feel a little bit more real for Luke, but despite being back in the UK with his medals in hand, ‘it still hasn’t fully sunken in yet’.
The athlete is now planning to take his medals, the weight of which ‘really surprised’ him, to some of his upcoming swim clinics to show them to young swimmers, as well as home to his parents.
Winning medals aside, the best part about the games for Luke was the feeling of being part of the team, contributing both to the swimming team’s astounding success and the wider Team GB as a whole, which Luke noted continues to have a ‘fantastic Olympics’.
He commented, ‘I think when you’re part of a team like that and everyone is doing well and everyone’s behind each other then it really makes you feel a lot better, which again translates into great performances. It was just amazing to be part of that team and I’ve got some memories I’ll never forget.’
Having just returned from Tokyo, Luke plans to try and enjoy some ‘downtime’ with a couple of weeks off, but with the International Swim League competition just weeks away he has to try and keep himself ‘relatively fit’. He stressed the importance of taking time to ‘go home and relax’, and after swimming his way to two Olympic medals I think it’s safe to say he deserves as much!
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