THERE can surely be no bigger ego boost than a four-time Olympic champion singing your praises. 

And that is why Andy Butchart, less than four weeks out from the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, is brimming with confidence. 

Butchart has spent a considerable amount of time in recent months training alongside four-time gold medallist Mo Farah, and while the Scot acknowledges he is rarely hampered by self-doubt, he admits having someone of the stature of Farah extolling the quality of his training sessions works wonders for one’s self-belief. 

“People think I’m so self-confident but actually, Mo has more confidence in me than I have in myself,” he says.  

“I’m the least humble person on the planet but then I’ll finish a session and Mo will say ‘oh my goodness, you’re in such good shape’ and so you know when he’s saying that to you, you must be in a good place.” 

Butchart recently spent time at an altitude training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona which was, he believes, his best-ever training block. 

He could not have timed it better. 

While the 29-year-old already has his sights set on Tokyo, he knows he has a job to do first at the British Trials this weekend. Having already secured the qualifying time for the 5000m, a top-two finish in Manchester will see his place in Team GB confirmed.  

And with the input of Farah, who himself will be aiming to secure a spot in Team GB at the trials, Butchart has gleaned every possible bit of advice from Farah, and it’s not always universally positive. 

“Mo and I are really good mates now so there’s no games. He’ll say the good stuff but he’ll also look at me and say ‘mate, you look so fat right now’. It’s a bit of banter but he’s such a good person to have in my team because he can help guide me through the process so it’s brilliant to have that,” he says. 

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“Mo is very intelligent in his athletics’ mind and he knows the sport inside out. He also knows me inside out.  

“He’s like a coach to me in some ways. He’s very good at looking out for me and making sure I don’t make some of the mistakes he’s made. 

“He has a really small circle so it’s nice to know I’m one of the few people he trusts.” 

If Butchart, who recently announced with his partner, Lynsey Sharp, that they are expecting a baby in November, completes the formalities at the British Championships and secures his seat on the plane to Tokyo, it will be his second Olympic appearance having made his debut in Rio in 2016. 

However, it’s safe to say the build-up to these Games could not have been more different to that of five years ago. 

Ahead of Rio, Butchart’s training and competition schedule was perfectly planned out whereas this time around, the disruption caused by the pandemic has ensured athletes barely know what they’re doing from one day to the next. 

The Stirling man admits his laid-back personality has helped him deal with the ongoing uncertainly but with only weeks until the Opening Ceremony, it now seems certain the Games will go ahead. 

That is, of course, a huge relief for Butchart but he also admits it is hard to feel excited with poll after poll emerging from the host country reporting that the Japanese public overwhelmingly want the Olympics either postponed once more or cancelled entirely. 

And that, reveals Butchart, has planted doubts in his mind about whether or not the Olympics should indeed be going ahead. 

“Personally, I’m not sure the world is ready for the Olympics yet. As athletes, we’re just so excited to race but if we put our sensible heads on, it’s probably best that we don’t go to Japan and compete,” he says.  

“I believe that sport and the Olympic Games bring so much joy to the world but we have so little information that it’s hard to say definitively whether they should go ahead or not, and we don’t know what it’s going to be like. 

“I’m lucky in that I’ve been to an Olympics before because this might not be a brilliant Olympics and not the normal Olympic experience. 

“There’s so many reports that the Japanese public don’t want the Olympics. So it feels like intruding into someone’s back garden when they don’t want you. 

“I don’t want to tread on the toes of the Japanese people and so when they don’t want us there, it’s difficult to get really excited about going. It’s really difficult and it’s a strange feeling.” 

These Olympics may not be the usual, joyful experience of previous Games and while Butchart is disappointed the typical buzz of the Olympics may be absent, he knows he is heading to Tokyo with far higher aspirations than merely enjoying the experience. 

In Rio, he finished sixth in the 5000m final but this time, he wants to be competing for silverware. 

“This might be a different Olympics to normal but at the end of the day, it’s athletics and it’s about going there wanting to win,” he says. 

“I’ll be going to Tokyo thinking there isn’t going to be an Olympic experience this year, it’s just a race – it’s heats and a final and I want to win them both.  

“In Rio I didn’t believe I could win a medal but this time I do believe it.  

“I’m in shape to go for a medal, I know that.”