SWIMMING - World champion Richards wants prize money for Olympic medals - The Droitwich Standard

SWIMMING - World champion Richards wants prize money for Olympic medals

Droitwich Editorial 16th Apr, 2024 Updated: 17th Apr, 2024   0

DROITWICH’S world champion swimmer Matt Richards believes Olympic medallists should be offered cash in every sport.

For the first time, track and field athletes will net £40,000 should they win gold at Paris 2024 with relay teams sharing the same amount.

Some nations offer medal bonuses but no similar arrangements are in place in the other sports on the Olympic programme.

Critics suggest the move would erode Olympic values and the IOC claim they invest $4.2 million in grassroots sport every day.

But Richards, crowned world champion in the men’s 200m freestyle last year, urged organisers to step in and redress the balance.

The 21-year-old said: “Winning Olympic gold is incredible and that’s why we go, we go knowing we’re not going to make a lot of money off the back of it.

“The Olympics make crazy money every four years – big business – but the athletes aren’t able to win any of that.

“If the IOC stepped in and offered a blanket amount, that would make a lot of athletes a lot happier.

“There are athletes who are struggling to make ends meet, week in week out, and struggling to put food on their table.

“You see stories of athletes going bankrupt to go to the Olympics and I don’t think that’s right.

“I’d love it if World Aquatics came out and offered money for medals, I’m not going to turn that down. There need to be some conversations had about how we better support athletes at the Olympics.

“It’s not an amateur Games any more, there are basketball players there earning hundreds of millions a year, football and tennis are the same. There needs to be something done about it.”

Richards invests in the stock market himself and is saving up to buy his own home and invest in property, as well as preparing for a post-Games wedding with fellow swimmer Emily Large.

His fellow freestyle swimmer, Australian James Magnussen, has been one of the first athletes to sign up for the Enhanced Games.

Magnussen will deliberately dope in an attempt to win $1m by trying to break a world record at the controversial event.

Richards believes Olympic prize money could help ward off such threats to the integrity of his sport.

Richards, who will benefit from Aldi and Team GB’s Nearest and Dearest programme in Paris, added: “The Enhanced Games is offering stupid money for athletes to become drug cheats.

“To protect the sport, protect the Olympics and everything that’s great about what we do, the governing bodies are going to have to start putting money up to stop athletes straying over to events like that.”

Aldi’s Nearest and Dearest programme helps maximise support and minimise potential distractions for athletes so that they can focus on their performance and make the most of the unique opportunity to compete on one of the world’s largest stages.

Richards won gold on Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 as a teenager, playing his part in a men’s 4x200m freestyle relay victory.

He now heads to the French capital as one of GB’s leading medal hopes in the pool with six podium shots across individual and relay events, meaning he could race up to 15 times in nine days.

Richards won gold and Duncan Scott silver in the hotly-contested 200m freestyle at last week’s AquaticsGB Swimming Championships, with only the top two qualifying individual spots, meaning reigning Olympic champion Tom Dean will not defend his title this summer.

“It’s a tough one,” said Richards, who will benefit from the informative webinars and dedicated space in Paris to enjoy intimate moments with family and friends – whether celebrating or consoling – as part of Aldi’s Nearest and Dearest programme.

“Someone is going to miss out, it’s always the way. Last year Duncan missed out, the year before that I missed out.

“It’s a real shame for Tom not to go and try to defend his title. Nobody would like to see him not get an opportunity to do that.

“Fundamentally, Tom has a lot of strings to his bow nowadays and has huge opportunities elsewhere in the week.

“It’s probably not what he wanted but it’s not like we’re going to see Tom race at all, we’ll see some amazing things from him and he’ll play a huge role in the relays too.”

Aldi are proud Official Partners of Team GB & ParalympicsGB, supporting all athletes through to Paris 2024

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