Tom Bosworth with Pete Selby and young hopefuls in Tonbridge

OLYMPIC race walker Tom Bosworth has spoken of his gratitude and affection for the coach who guided him to greatness, Pete Selby.

Mr Selby has decided to stand down from his duties with Tonbridge Athletic Club, though he will continue to coach in Lewes, East Sussex.

Tom came sixth in the race walking event at the Rio Games in 2016, in a British record time, and then broke the world record for the one-mile walk at the Anniversary Games in London last summer.

The 27-year-old says of his former mentor: “Pete had coached many athletes for many years, giving so many evenings and weekends never looking for anything in return.

“He encouraged me at every race, even when I was coming last he always found a way of encouraging me.”

Tom joined Tonbridge AC at the age of 11 and started race walking the following year because his sister Emily took part in it.

He recalls his earliest days at the club, saying: “On track nights I can remember being a bit of a brat with my friends and he just enjoyed making sure we had a good time, got fit and some fresh air – even if we decided we didn’t want to go round the track but play football instead!”

Tom was not the only one who excelled at the discipline, which is often marginalised in track and field compared to more mainstream events.

Tonbridge’s team has won the National Grand Prix title six times, and another member of last year’s Team GB race walking squad, Guy Thomas, learned his trade with Mr Selby at the club.

Guy, whose mother Vicky is also a coach at Tonbridge, was invited to join Team GB for the pre-Olympic Camp at Font Remoy.

Tom adds: “I know the race walking team at Tonbridge often got overlooked, many even mocked us for a while.

“But then after Pete started training athletes up to international standard they gave him the respect he is due. After all he was one of the highest qualified coaches at the club.”

Mr Selby said: “We helped develop him from being a keen but not brilliant athlete to someone who was serious about the sport by the age of 18.

“He is a great example of what can be done if you put your mind to it. Tonbridge has a good record for turning out race walkers, including Tim Berrett, who has represented Canada.”

Berrett went on to compete at the Olympics in Barcelona and Sydney, and won a bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

In the 1970s, the club’s John Nye and Ted Ardley were two of the faster walkers in the UK, while Freddie Baker was a 100-miles specialist.

In 2009 Tom made his junior debut with Team GB and won a scholarship to study Sports Performance at Leeds Metropolitan University, which allowed him to train full time at the National Race Walking Centre there.

He is now the six times British 20km champion and British record-holder on five occasions, claiming the best times at 3k 5k 10k and 20k.

He continued to keep in touch with Mr Selby and told the Times: “I want Peter to finally get the respect he is due.”