Little Matt Richards was just five years old when he boldly announced to his parents that he no longer needed armbands and launched himself into his holiday hotel’s pool.
This prompted Matt’s parents, Amanda and Simon, to sign him up for swimming lessons at Droitwich Spa Leisure Centre, which really ignited their son’s passion for the water.
Quickly working his way through the swimming levels, by the age of eight he was doing 32 lengths of the pool in just 25 minutes – developing a real competitive edge.
He joined Droitwich Dolphins Swimming Club and a couple of years later took his training to the next level with Worcester Swimming Club, qualifying for county, regional and then national championships.
At 13 he joined an elite programme in Wolverhampton, going on to break countless British age group records. Aged 16, he became the 2019 European junior champion in the 100m freestyle.
When Britain went into its first Covid lockdown in March 2000, Matt faced being out of the water 10 weeks so he spent £1,000 on a giant paddling pool which he set it up in his garden.
He attached a bungee rope to a hook on his garage wall, linked the other end to a body harness and swam for two hours a day in what he described as ‘‘a swimming treadmill”.
Thankfully, Matt, who was born in Worcester but swims for Wales, was then invited to train at the Bath National Centre under strict Covid-secure protocols.
In April 2001, at the Team GB Olympic trials, Matt touched third behind (2021 silver medallist) Duncan Scott and (2021 gold medallist) Tom Dean in the 200m freestyle, booking his place for Tokyo.
And in the early hours of July 28 (UK time) a hugely impressive Matt became the pride of Droitwich by winning gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay with Dean, Scott and Guy James.
Matt also competed in the 4x100m freestyle relay in Tokyo, just failing to reach the final. He was scheduled to take part in the 100m individual freestyle but withdrew to focus on the team event.
You can watch Matt in the makeshift pool in his garden by clicking here