MATT Richards says he is continuing to aim high, after returning from his Team GB debut at the European Junior Swimming Championships in Russia as a gold medalist.
The 16-year-old swimmer from Droitwich took three medals in all, adding a silver and bronze to his 100m freestyle gold during his time at the championships in Kazan.
Richards will be looking to build on his recent feats in two weeks time when heading to the British Summer Championships in Glasgow, his final event of the season, and admits he feels a lot of pride going into his next tournament as a European junior champion.
“I am so pleased how everything went in Kazan,” he said.
“Visiting Russia was an amazing experience and made even more special by gaining my first GB Cap.
“I was really pleased with achieving all my goals in my races, and it was great to come home as a European junior champion for the 100m freestyle, a silver medalist for the 200m freestyle and a bronze medalist in the relay.
“I’ve got a couple of weeks of training left before heading to the British Summer Championships in Glasgow, followed by a nice break over the summer.
“I then start heavy training in September ready for next year – so I’m hoping for an even better year ahead.”
The annual European Junior Swimming Championships pits Europe’s best swimmers aged 18 and under against each other.
Due to his birthday falling in December, he often found himself competing against swimmers up to two years older than him, but made his mark despite being at a disadvantage as part of British Swimming’s 30-strong team.
Richards made an immediate impact at his first event of the championships, qualifying for the semi-finals 50m butterfly event by equalling the British record for 16-year-olds.
He then built on his stunning start by setting further records in the 100m freestyle.
Going into the event as the British age group record holder following his time of 49.98 seconds at the British Championships in April this year, Richards broke his own record by finishing in a time of 49.91 seconds in the heats.
The Droitwich swimmer then defied the odds not just once, but twice in the semi-final and final.
Lowering the record to 49.50 seconds in the semi-final, Richards deservedly earned his European crown by setting an even faster time of 48.88 seconds.
The new record is the second fastest time outright in Great Britain this year, and is the seventh fastest time set by a British male.
Further success followed in the 200m freestyle, an event in which Matt also held the GB record for (1:49.36).
A time of 1:49.72 in the heats ranked him second going into the semi-final, where he broke his own record again in a time of 1:48.93.
Richards was seemingly a man possessed during the championships, breaking his own 200m freestyle record a second time in succession with a 1:47.23 finish.
Even after performing another remarkable feat, he was forced to settle for a silver medal after being ousted by 18-year-old Swedish swimmer Robin Hanson.
Finishing the championships in the relays event, Matt played a pivotal role in helping his team earn bronze medals in the men’s 4x100m freestyle, swimming the third leg and taking his team from fifth to third in the rankings.
He also excelled in the mixed 4x100m freestyle and men’s 4x100m medley relay events, but did not take home any further medals.
Richards now turns all attentions to competing in Glasgow, where he will enter the 50m and 100m butterfly, 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle, and 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays.