By Gareth James
Matt Richards has revealed he was driven by revenge as he struck gold on another brilliant night for Welsh swimmers at the European Aquatics Championships in Rome.
The Welsh ace won a gold medal as part of the Great Britain mixed 4 x 200m freestyle team on the penultimate night at, as Wales’ Medi Harris added a thrilling silver to her magnificent tally of four medals in Italy.
Tom Dean, Richards, Freya Colbert and Freya Anderson lined up for the Brits in one of the relay events in which there was a European title defence on the line.
Richards said: “France inched us out on that mixed 4 x 100m freestyle relay and I think there was that little bit of wanting revenge today.
“We managed to get that and as Deano said, everyone put on a really mature swim and a very good show and that’s all you can ask for at this point in the season.
“Everyone executing individual swims to make a fantastic team time is brilliant.
Another 💪🏼 night for 🇬🇧 swimmers at the #LENRoma2022 Europeans!
🥈 @MediHarris in 100m back
🥇 for 🇬🇧’s mixed 4x200m free relay team: @tomdean00 @M4ttRichards @freyacolbert & @freyaandersonn.@britishswimming | @SwimWales @LENaquatics | @Swim_England pic.twitter.com/4spPNB7dLe
— Nick Hope – the athlete’s journalist 👨💻🏊🏻♂️ (@NickHopeTV) August 16, 2022
“Going forwards, we’re defending champions. Now that’s our second year running being European champions in the 4 x 200 mixed and hopefully we can continue that reign.”
It was Dean who opened up the race and set the pace, leading the entire way and stretching clear down the final 25m before handing over to Richards with the team a second ahead of the chasing pack.
Richards – who had set a new personal best in the heats of the 50m freestyle at the start of the day – did well to maintain the lead, as he fought off strong challenges from the French and Italian teams with another of those late bursts to give Colbert a slightly increased gap at the halfway stage.
A persistent Charlotte Bonnet of France gave Colbert stern opposition across the third leg of the race, but the 18-year-old showed good composure and managed to pace her swim well, delivering a similarly powerful finish after the final turn and handing over to Anderson with a 0.2-second advantage on the anchor.
A final showdown between the two nations in the centre lanes then ensued, with Lucile Tessariol of France not letting up from Anderson as the pair turned almost exactly even at the 700m and 750m marks.
The Mixed 4x200m Freestyle Relay team on top of that European podium again 🥇🥳@tomdean00, @M4ttRichards, @freyacolbert & @freyaandersonn with rapid final 50m efforts apiece to defend the title in this event 👏@kieranbiird, @JacobWhittle11 & @LucyHope_ – all champions too 👑 pic.twitter.com/LnosUO8t4g
— British Swimming (@britishswimming) August 16, 2022
It was Anderson, though, who used her superior endurance to overcome the challenge, emphatically pulling away down the final 50 metres to give Great Britain their third swimming gold medal of the competition.
There were also European titles for Kieran Bird, Jacob Whittle and Lucy Hope who, alongside Colbert, helped secure GB that crucial centre-lane berth in the morning heats.
Straight before that memorable finale, Swim Wales star Harris delivered her maiden individual international medal for GB with silver in the women’s 100m backstroke.
Following quick starts from the two swimmers either side of her in lane six, Harris managed to stay with the rest of the field to get to the wall within half a second of the leaders.
It was from then where she came alive, as she powered through the field to bring herself alongside top seed and leader Margherita Panziera into the final 10m, ultimately seeing herself just touched out into second place by six hundredths of a second.
🥈INDIVIDUAL SILVER FOR @MediHarris! 🇪🇺
Llongyfarchiadau Medi! 🙌
Her shining silver is the first (of hopefully many) individual honours for @britishswimming, and caps an incredible breakthrough year for the rising ⭐️ from North Wales!🏴#LENRoma2022 https://t.co/rC157bDBfr
— Swim Wales (@SwimWales) August 16, 2022
The result is yet another highlight of what has been an impressive breakthrough summer for the Welsh athlete, which has seen her now pick up four medals at these European Championships.
She said: “I knew it was going to be hard to go in there, go fast and try to get on the podium, but I just tried to keep my head down all day, relax and try to enjoy the race.
“That’s what I’ve been told to do, so it’s what I tried to do!
“It’s definitely what I wanted. I was a bit disappointed after my 50m, so I think I was going into this one a little hungrier for it, because I wanted an individual medal.
“I’m so pleased I was able to do it, to go in fourth and come out second is not a bad thing to do, so I’m really happy.”