SWIMMING - Matt Richards up for Olympic challenge - The Droitwich Standard

SWIMMING - Matt Richards up for Olympic challenge

Droitwich Editorial 25th Jul, 2023 Updated: 25th Jul, 2023   0

MATT Richards won an Olympic gold medal at the age of just 18 – now he has his sights set on taking down the fastest swimmer on the planet.

Romanian David Popovici cemented his place as the world’s quickest in 2022, winning the 100m and 200m freestyle world titles, breaking the world record in the former.

Still only 18, many believe Popovici could dominate the two events for the foreseeable future, but Richards is up for the challenge against the budding superstar.

Richards said: “There are some very big fish to fry around the world. Popovici is the world record holder (over 100m free) and the defending world champ on both the individuals I’ll be racing this summer, and countless other guys all around the world who are going to be wanting to come home with some medals.

“So there are some very challenging races to be competing in this summer and I’m very much up for the challenge, I’m up for it and I’m excited.

“[Popovici] has broken the world record in the 100, he’s the closest man to the world record since the super suit era in the 200 so he’s a hell of an athlete, a hell of a swimmer and a hell of a competitor.

“But there’s lots of places and ways where we are looking at what he has done in the past and what he will do in the future and drawing up plans for how we are going to combat that. I’m never going to go into a race looking to do anything else but win it.

“So, as far as I am concerned, he is just another competitor. I will show him all the respect he has earned and that he deserves, in and out of the pool. But by the time he steps onto the blocks, he is just another person I’ve got to beat. That is the way I’m looking at it ahead of the summer and that is the way I will continue to look at it into Paris next year.”

The 20-year-old from Droitwich was part of Team GB’s victorious 4x200m freestyle relay in Tokyo two years ago.

And in 2023, he made a statement at the British trials, winning the 200m freestyle ahead of Olympic individual gold and silver medallists Tom Dean and Duncan Scott.

That secured an individual place in the 200m freestyle at this year’s World Championship, while he will likely also compete in the 100m freestyle – which means two matchups with Popovici.

During the British trials, Richards made history, becoming the first man to swim sub-22 seconds in the 50m freestyle, sub 48 seconds in the 100m free and sub 1:45 in the 200m free – a feat not even Popovici or Michael Phelps have managed.

While medals mean more than records, Richards insists this is just the beginning.

Richards added: “It’s pretty cool. When I heard after the meet, I thought surely that can’t be right. There must be someone else but they have looked into it and confirmed it so it’s pretty cool. There are some incredibly big names on that list, past and present.

“To be the first person to do it is pretty special. But there are lots more things I want to be the first person to do. We’ve got to keep working, keep improving, keep enjoying it and see where it takes us. Hopefully we can shift that down a little bit and see where else we can push that club to.”

Richards is one of over 1,000 elite athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme.

This allows him to train full time, have access to the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering medical support – this is vital for his pathway to the Paris 2024 Games.

UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said: “You can’t overstate the positive impact that the National Lottery funding has on people’s lives.

“It has utterly transformed what is possible for our athletes. We’re supporting more athletes than we’ve ever supported, innovating through technology and taking the financial pressure off them.

“Team GB and ParalympicsGB continue to raise the bar and I’m sure will continue to do so at Paris 2024 – that’s due to the support of the National Lottery.”

National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes including vital funding into sport – from grassroots to elite. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk #TNLAthletes #MakeAmazingHappen


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