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Matt Richards Backs Olympic Prize Money As Way To Crush Enhanced Games

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By David Williams

Wales’ world champion swimmer Matt Richards – one of five Team Wales stars selected for Great Britain at this summer’s Olympic Games – believes financial rewards for Olympic gold medals are the only way to shut down the controversial Enhanced Games.

Australian freestyle swimmer James Magnussen has become one of the first athletes to sign up for the Enhanced Games. Magnussen will intentionally dope in an attempt to win $1 million by breaking a world record at the event.

At the same time, track and field athletes will break new ground and receive £40,000 for winning gold at the Paris 2024 Olympics, with relay teams sharing the same amount.

While some countries offer bonuses for medals, there are currently no similar arrangements in place for swimming or other sports on the Olympic programme.

Richards feels that prize money at the Olympic Games could help prevent such threats to the integrity of his sport.

“The Enhanced Games is throwing ridiculous sums of money at athletes to basically cheat,” Richards said.

“To protect the sport, to protect the Olympics, and everything that makes what we do so great, the governing bodies need to start offering financial incentives to prevent athletes from being lured away to these kinds of events.”

In addition to being a world-class athlete, Richards is also a stock market investor saving up for a house, property investments, and his upcoming post-Games wedding with fellow swimmer Emily Large.

Critics argue that prize money would undermine the core values of the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) claims to invest $4.2 million in grassroots sports every day.

However, Richards, the reigning men’s 200m freestyle world champion, urges organisers to take action and address the imbalance.

“Winning Olympic gold is an incredible achievement, and that’s the main reason we compete,” Richards said.

“We go into it knowing we won’t make a lot of money from it.”

The 21-year-old will benefit from the Aldi and Team GB’s Nearest & Dearest program in Paris, which aims to maximize support and minimize distractions for athletes so they can focus on their performance and make the most of the unique opportunity to compete on one of the world’s biggest stages.

“The Olympics generate a vast amount of money every four years – it’s big business – but the athletes don’t see any of that,” Richards said.

“If the IOC stepped in and offered a standard amount of prize money, it would make a lot of athletes much happier.

“There are athletes who struggle financially week after week, just trying to put food on the table. You hear stories of athletes going bankrupt trying to compete in the Olympics, and I don’t think that’s right.

“Of course, I’d be happy if World Aquatics offered prize money for medals, I wouldn’t reject that. We need to have serious discussions about how to better support athletes at the Olympics.

“These aren’t amateur games anymore. There are basketball players making hundreds of millions a year, and it’s the same in football and tennis. Something needs to be done about it.”

Matt Richards Heads Five Star Welsh Group Heading For Paris Olympics

Richards has hit qualifying standards in six events, meaning he could race 15 times in nine days in pursuit of a glut of gold at the Games.

He went to Tokyo as a wide-eyed teenager, but is now a fully-fledged freestyle powerhouse, the fastest man in the world this year over 200 metres.

“Fundamentally, I’m just excited to race,” said Richards. “You could argue there’s some pressure on me now but I kind of don’t feel it.

“I’m just doing it for me, I’m doing what I love. Pressure is part and parcel of doing a good job of what I love.

“People are always going to have expectations but I know I’m in a good place physically and mentally and I can go and do some amazing things.”

After reaching the pinnacle of his sport in 2021, he hit rock bottom a year later, finishing 30th at the World Championships.

“I was going so far backwards, my times were dreadful compared to where they were before,” he said. “It was really tough, really hard.

“I didn’t really understand what was going on. I needed a big step back, to reinvent myself and work out why I was no longer at my best.

“It took some hard conversations with the people around me and my loved ones to figure all of that out.”

Richards decided to switch training bases, now working under Ryan Livingstone at Millfield School. Within a year, he rose from 30th to be crowned world champion in the 200m freestyle.

“I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing,” said Richards. “I didn’t enjoy the kind of training I was doing. It didn’t work, I was going through the motions in a style of training I didn’t like.

“It made me fall out of love with the sport at the time. I swim best when I’m happy and enjoying what I’m doing and I needed to find a way to do that.

“I think that whole period stands me in good stead for the future. To be able to learn from that year, understand where it went wrong and get back on the horse, it’s so valuable. I wouldn’t change that year for the world, I’d keep the lessons I learned from it.”

Read more about Matt Richards

Matt Richards Heads Five Star Welsh Group Heading For Paris Olympics

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