Related Topics

  • Coronavirus pandemic

media captionTokyo Olympics: Tom Dean & Duncan Scott lead Team GB to 4x200m freestyle relay gold

It wasn't 18 months ago that Matt Richards was so worried about lockdowns ruining his Olympic build-up, he bought a garden pool to keep on training.

So imagine his parents' delight when he won gold in the freestyle relay for Team GB in almost world record time.

If that wasn't enough, he and teammate Calum Jarvis were the first Welsh swim stars to win Olympic titles since 1912.

"We're just overwhelmed, just delighted for him, for the team, it's quite a surreal moment," mum Amanda said.

Incredibly, it was Richards' Olympic debut as the 18-year-old swam Great Britain's third in their victorious men's 200m freestyle relay team alongside Duncan Scott, James Guy and double Olympic champion Tom Dean.

  • Tokyo Olympics medals table
  • Tokyo 2020: How much do you know about the Olympics?
  • Olympics Rewind: London 2012 – 10 things you may have forgotten

It means the Welsh teenager and Jarvis – who swam in the heats – are the first Welsh athletes to win gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as well as being the first Welsh Olympic swimming champions since Irene Steer 109 years ago.

"I've had worse Wednesdays," joked Richards' dad Simon to BBC Radio Wales.

image copyrightSimon Richardsimage captionRichards' parents got him a pool in their garden to train in during lockdowns

"I watched it but I couldn't tell you what happened – it was a brilliant team performance."

As she watched, Mrs Richards said she was "mostly just feeling really sick", adding: "It was just utter relief at the end when it all came off."

Mr Richards said the Covid lockdowns had been a "really difficult time" for their son with swimming pool closures meaning he could not train.

image copyrightFamily photoimage captionSwimming pools were closed during the Covid lockdowns, making training a challengeimage copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionMatt Richards and his team almost broke the 4x200m relay world record in Tokyo

"The idea of not knowing when he was going to be able to get back in the water was a real problem for him," he said.

After seeing a Dutch open water swimmer training in an over-ground pool online they decided to get one for their son and put one measuring three metres wide, five metres long and one metre deep in their back garden.

image copyrightSimon Richardsimage captionMatt Richards has been a promising swimming for years – here's him aged 10

"We attached some bungee cords to the garage wall and he was in there swimming hour after hour in his wetsuit… keeping a feel for the water," Mr Richards explained.

"It helped him mentally," added Mrs Richards.

image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionMatt Richards, second from right, swam the third leg of the winning relay

Richards was born in Worcester and currently lives in Bath, but is registered as a Welsh swimmer through his Cardiff-born father.

Jarvis, 29, was also awarded the team gold because the 29-year-old from Ystrad, Rhondda Cynon Taf, swam in the heats of the competition and was given his medal away from the podium, but with the rest of his teammates.

Relay are won by more than 4 swimmers.. 👏🏻to a special British swim team @britishswimming @tomdean00 @Jimbob95goon @M4ttRichards @Dunks_Scott @CalumJarvis @BBCSport @Andyjamesonswim @MarkFosterSwim @BeckAdlington 🥇🇬🇧🔥 pic.twitter.com/va0epWlP3A

— Sharron Davies MBE (@sharrond62) July 28, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Jarvis's wife Jemma, a two-time Olympic swimming finalist herself, said: "I'm so happy for all the boys…

"It was amazing, everyone is so happy for them… he's going to be over the moon, I just can't wait to see him."

She said the Covid lockdowns had been "so difficult".

image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionCalum Jarvis was part of the successful 200m freestyle relay team that won gold at the World Championships last summer

"It was technically the longest he'd been out of the pool since he was eight years old – he couldn't be in the pool for I think it was 10 or 12 weeks," she continued.

"There was so much uncertainty, even a few months before the Olympics happened, if it was definitely going to go ahead – it was so hard for all the athletes to just try and keep focus and try and keep training as though it was definitely going ahead."