Meet TASS Star 2021 ‘Athlete of the Year’ Tom Smith
Tom Smith clinched this year’s Athlete Of The Year title at the 2021 TASS Stars awards after successfully combining his studies at Cambridge Regional College with a standout performance at the Para Powerlifting World Cup. We found out more about the 20-year-old dual career athlete. Since this interview Tom has been selected for the UK Sport Funded Para Powerlifting GB Team.
TASS: How much does it mean to you to have won a TASS Stars award?
Tom Smith: With the year we have all had, this is a great reward. To win Athlete Of The Year — in my first year as a TASS supported athlete — means the world to me. To have this support and backing as an athlete is something which has enabled me to balance my education and my training effectively.
TASS: How challenging has the past 12 months been – as a student and an athlete?
TS: The part I feel I struggled with most was the academic learning from home. I am someone who always prefers to do things in person and at times it became very stressful knowing that wasn’t an option. However, with the training set up I had at home, I could use weightlifting as a way to escape that stress and help improve my psychological approach.
TASS: What have been your proudest achievements during this period?
TS: My two proudest achievements this year were achieving gold at the 2021 Manchester World Cup and achieving a distinction in all assignments throughout the academic year. Being able to balance education and training is hugely important to me.
TASS: What do you hope to go on to achieve during the next 12 months?
TS: I am hoping to put myself in the frame for the Paris 2024 Paralympic cycle which begins in September. This is something which I am now focusing on and looking to achieve during the next three years.
TASS: Why is it important to you to continue following a dual career pathway?
TS: It is about keeping my options open. I understand the demands of elite sport and, at any moment during my training, my dream could be over in a flash. It is about having back up plans in place that I can fall back on if any unfortunate scenarios do happen.
TASS: Can you describe how being a TASS supported student athlete helps you?
TS: TASS helped me to understand the importance of balancing my education with my training. They set up calls with practitioners to work on my nutrition and psychology that, in turn, allowed me to get expert advice beyond my usual training. TASS was also there for me even if I needed a general chat to catch up on how I was getting on as a student or as an athlete. It felt like I was offered an unlimited amount of support if there was anything that I felt I was struggling with.
TASS: Do you have a message for dual career athletes working hard to achieve their goals – both sporting and educational?
TS: My message and advice is to have short and long-term targets in mind which you can refer to regularly. Ensure you are on track with whatever it is you want to achieve. I would always suggest doing academic work as soon as you get it — I found that reduced the amount of stress and meant I had one less thing to worry about at a time when I was wanting to focus on my training.
Tom Smith was nominated in the Athlete Of The Year category of the TASS Stars awards in recognition of his outstanding performance at the 2021 Para Powerlifting World Cup in Manchester. One of the rising stars of para sport clinched gold in the Under 54kg category with a best lift of 125kg. Thomas now has his sights set on the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2024 Paralympic Games.