WHO IS MATT?
Matt was born in Worcester and is the only child of Amanda and Simon Richards. Matt currently lives in Bath and trains at the GB National Centre with coach, Jol Finck. Matt moved to Bath in August 2020 as a result of the COVID pandemic. Prior to this Matt lived at home with his parents, two dogs Kylo and Finn and his cat Jinx! Despite being born in Worcester, Matt has a close bond with his paternal relatives and it is because of this he is registered as a Welsh Swimmer.
Matt has been swimming since he was 5 years old when he started swimming lessons at Droitwich Leisure Centre. His parents made the decision to take him to lessons following a family holiday to Tenerife where Matt decided that he didn't want to wear armbands anymore, so promptly took them off and launched himself into the hotel pool!
Just like all youngsters, Matt worked his way through the swimming levels, finding some easier than others. But he immediately discovered an absolute love of being in the water. Finally, aged 8 years old, he tackled the dreaded Gold Challenge, which entailed swimming 800 metres in 25 minutes. Not surprsingly, having achieved this, Matt had got a taste for challenging himself and striving to achieve more. So at this point, Matt decided he wanted to join the local swimming team, Droitwich Dolphins, where he took his first steps into the world of competitive swimming.
As Matt aproached the age of 10 years old, he decided that it was time to take his training on to the next level, so moved to Worcester Swimming Club, where he trained under the watchful eyes of coaches, Mark Stowe, John Fletcher and Malcom Latta.
It was during his time at Worcester, that Matt qualified for County, Regional, and then finally National Summer Championships. At this point, Matt was still swimming all four strokes successfully, and competing at National Level in the Individual Medley events. However, at the age of 13, Matt realised that he wanted swimming to be a career rather than a hobby. So he made the impossibly difficult decision to move to the Royal Wolverhampton School as a weekly boarder and train with Marc Spackman and Tom Elgar at the Royal Wolverhampton Swimming Squad as part of their Elite Programme.
As the time approached to leave home for the first time and begin boarding at a strange school where he knew no one, Matt was struck down with Tonsillitis. Despite this, at 13 years of age, he was determined that he would start school at the same time as everyone else and was desperate to get into the pool and train!
During his time at the Royal Wolverhampton School, Matt went on to become National Champion in numerous events, broke countless British Age Group Records, and in 2019 became European Junior Champion in the 100 Freestyle.
Matt had set his sights on qualifying for the Toyko Olympics in 2020, but as the COVID pandemic hit, he found himself unable to train and Olympic Trials were cancelled. Undaunted, Matt continued to train in his back garden, in a freezing cold overground pool! Fortunately, when Brisith Swimming invited some elite swimmers to return to training in June 2020, Matt was invited to train at Bath National Centre under strict COVID protocols. For three months, Matt slept on the floor of his team mate's house, and began working with coach Jol Finck. During this time, Matt developed a real appreciation for the facilities and opportunities the National Centre offered and he made yet another difficult decision. At the tender age of 17 years old, he decided to make a permanent move to Bath to safeguard his chances of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics which had, by this time, been pushed to 2021. This was a risky decision, leaving his coach Marc Spackman and a programme which he knew worked well for him. But it turned out to be the right one, as more national lockdowns prevented many other swimmers from training in November 2020 and January 2021, whilst his elite squad was able to continue training in the water.
In November 2020, still only aged 17 years old, Matt represented the New York Breakers team at the International Swimming League in Budapest. This was his first real taste of senior, international competition and signalled the start of his transition from Junior to Senior Swimmer.
In April 2021, Matt finally got the chance to compete at the Olympic trials at the Aquatic Centre, Olympic Park, London. He qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 100 Freestyle as an individual swimmer, coming second only to Duncan Scott. Matt's time in the final, placed him 8th fastest in the world at that point in the year and took down Duncan Scott's 18 year old British Record. Then, during the final sessions of the meet, Matt raced in the 200 Freestyle. The final of this event was the fastest ever in British history. Matt touched third behind Duncan Scott and Tom Dean in an eye watering time of 1:45.77, taking James Guy's 18 year old British Record in the process. This time was also the 8th fastest in the world that year.
Matt then continued his 2021 senior campaign, coming home with 2 silver medals and 1 gold medal from the European Championships in Budapest in May. Shortly after this he headed out to Tokyo to begin his first ever Olympic campaign.
At the beginning of the week in Tokyo, Matt led out the team in the mens' 4x100m freestyle, matching his british record and touching first in a time of 48.23, a fantastic first race of the meet. Unfortunately, the team didn't make the final on that event despite being medal hopefuls. But Matt didn't let that knock him. He made the decision to drop his Individual 100 Freestyle for the benefit of the team and to ensure that he was ready to race in the mens' 4x200m freestyle later that week. This was a selfless call but one that paid off for him in the long run! Matt led out the team again in the 4x200m heats and the team headed into the final as favourites to win, with an all star line up of British 200 freestylers. In the final of the 4x200m Freestyle event, the 4 lads (Tom Dean, James Guy, Matt and Ducan Scott) won the race, finishing over 2 seconds ahead of the rest of the world and only 0.03 seconds shy of the world record set by the American Team in 2009 which included none other than the great Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. So at the tender age of 18 years old, Matt walked away from his first Olympic Games as an Olympic Champion!
Coach - Jol Finck
Squad - GB Bath National Centre