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Wales’ Double World Champion Matt Richards Already Dreaming Of More Gold in Paris Next Year

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By Gareth James

Matt Richards believes he can stay on top of the world after the Welsh swimming sensation became a double world champion in Japan.

With next year’s Olympics already in his sights, Richards soared to the top of the podium in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships on Friday.

It made it two gold medals for Richards who became world 200m freestyle champion three days ago.

The Wales Commonwealth Games star was part of a quartet that finnished ahead of both teams responsible for their disappointing third place result at the last edition of the swimming competition.

Richards took over from Duncan Scott to put the British team in the lead in the second leg of the race, with James Guy and Tom Dean carrying the momentum until the finishing strokes.

Clocking in at 6:59.08, Great Britain finished almost a second ahead of defending champions USA and more than three seconds ahead of 2022 silver medallists Australia, who took bronze this time. Those three nations all secured berths for the Paris 2024 Olympics by reaching the podium.

“That relay has been really strong for us over the last few years” Richards said in a poolside interview after the race.

“Last year we were all pretty gutted with the result with came away with, but I think we’ve done a great job to bounce back and start building that momentum for next year.”

“Every year we push each other all the time and it helps to get the best out of each other as well,” added Guy, who swam the opening leg of the relay in 2022. “It was a great race there and I think going into Paris next year we can definitely add on a little bit more.”

Following a strong heats swim by Joe Litchfield to open things up in the heats – meaning he becomes a world champion for the first time – Guy then came in for the final to reunite the quartet that took gold in the event at the Tokyo Olympics two years prior as they went for glory once again on the world stage.

Scott, the 200m Individual Medley silver medallist from yesterday, led the race off for the team – sitting on the hips of the USA’s opening swimmer to put in a controlled performance and handover to Richards with the team well in the mix for the lead.

The 200m Freestyle title holder from earlier in the week did well to take the lead as the race hit the halfway stage – edging in front of a handful of nations who were within a body-length of the 20-year-old on the touch.

With Guy in on the penultimate leg, the race quickly turned into a direct battle for the lead between the British quartet and the USA in the adjacent lane.

With the pace being turned up by the Jake Mitchell from the chasing team, James – the 2015 world champion in the individual event – kept his cool and handed over to Dean with just under half-a body-length lead with 200m to go.

It was on the anchor leg where Dean so often flourishes, with today being no exception. The reigning 200m Freestyle Olympic champion produced the fastest split of the group – a 1:43.84 – to hold off what was a spirited fightback from the American Kieran Smith as the race came to its conclusion – with the 23-year-old touching for gold in a time of 6:59.08, just outside the world record and their own European best time.

The result gives Dean a medal of every colour from this competition as his tally increases to three, with Richards and Scott on two following their respective gold and silver from their individual events, and Guy taking his first medal of the meet and his 11th World Championship medal overall.

Reflecting on the world title, Dean said: “We knew this was going to be probably our strongest relay of the whole meet, and I knew that when the four boys came together, something special would happen like it did last time we were in Japan.”

Guy – who has now medalled at five successive World Championships – added: “We won it in Tokyo and tonight, I think we knew we were the favourites deep down, but we’re not taking things for granted. It was nice to win but, like Matt said, the world record was in the back of our minds a little bit – but everything happens for a reason.

“Winning tonight was really, really nice, this is our first time together since Tokyo, and it shows that we’re in a great place which hopefully we can build on that for Paris.

“At the end of the day, it’s about enjoying what we’re doing. We’re racing the best guys in the world on the world stage, it’s an honour to do that for your country. Hopefully we can progress that next year and progress with our individual swims.”

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