Double Olympic swimming champion Tom Dean has said his OBE means his “crazy year” ended in the “best possible way”.
The 21-year-old was made an OBE in the New Year Honours list for services to swimming, having become the first British male in more than a century to win two golds at the same Games, in the 4x200m freestyle and the 200m freestyle.
But Dean’s participation was put under serious threat when he caught coronavirus twice in the build-up to the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The sports star told BBC Breakfast: “It seems like I couldn’t escape (Covid) in 2021.
“My second bout of Covid was this time last year and that throws a lot of question marks up in the air.
“We do a sport that requires so much dedication and day in, day out training.
“So I was two months out from the trials, the Olympics, which happened in early April, and I was still isolating and I was really worried about whether I was going to be able to make it so I’m so glad it worked out.”
He added: “It’s been a crazy year – this time last year I was isolating because of a Covid infection, so it started off in the worst possible way, but it’s ended in the best possible way I can ask for.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster. But it all worked out in the end, and it’s the best way to see in the new year.”
Dean’s feats were accompanied by memorable videos of his family and friends celebrating his gold medal-winning performances in his back garden.
He said: “Those videos have gone absolutely crazy, I didn’t even know that was going on at all, that party.
“I did not have a clue that there were about 100 people in my back garden at 2.30 in the morning.
“But it was so special, and I think that shows what the Olympics and Team GB means for people.”
He said he has been stopped in the street by strangers who have taken up swimming following his success in the pool.
Dean said: “I’ve had people come up to me and say they’ve started swimming because they say they’ve seen me on the TV.
“It’s been absolutely incredible.”