Matt Richards' journey from garden paddling pool to Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold

Matt Richards powers through the water of a paddling pool set up in his garden

The closure of swimming pools during the Covid-19 lockdown did little to dissuade Matt Richards from training for the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

The 18-year-old set up a swimming pool in his back garden, 1.5 metres deep and 5 metres long.

Attaching himself to the garage wall with a harness, Richards was able to keep training twice a day during lockdown.

It was a family affair, with the teenager's parents standing paddling pool side to time his sets and prodding him with the washing line to let him know when each was finished.

That hard work saw him take gold in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay alongside teammates Duncan Scott, Tom Dean and James Guy, with the quartet finishing just 0.03 seconds outside of the world record.

Matt Richards took gold along with teammates Duncan Scott, Tom Dean and James Guy in the men's 200m freestyle relay. Credit: PA

His parents, Simon and Amanda Richards, watched their son swim to gold from their home in Droitwich.

Mum Amanda recalled how the family all tried to pitch in with their son's efforts - even their pet dog, in his own way.

"He found it quite difficult when he was doing it on his own, so we offered to go and help out and stand out and time (him), as I was working from home at the time," she told ITV News.

The moment Matt Richards' family watched him claim gold in the relay

"Where possible, Simon would be out there and if he couldn’t be out there I would," Amanda said.

She added: "We were having to time on these sets – which I haven’t got a clue about, Simon’s a trained coach in swimming, I’m not – so I’d be trying to read these sets and time it.

"And then we used the washing line pole to tap him on the head or back when he needed to change what he was doing.

"And our small dog, Finn, thought it was horrifying."

'We were having to time on these sets - which I haven't got a clue about!'

"Finn didn’t know what was going on, and every time Matt got into the pool and started training he would run around the pool at 100mph because he thought Matt was drowning," she said.

Richards – preferred in the final to Calum Jarvis, who helped Britain reach Wednesday’s showpiece and will still receive a gold medal – revelled in his achievement.

'I just can't stop looking at it': Matt Richards reacts to his gold medal on a video call with his parents

"It’s an honour to have this hanging round my neck," Richards told his parents.

"Forever now, this will be something that I can say I was part of and it will be something I can tell my kids and hopefully my grandkids about one day.

"But for me I’ve got some big goals, I’ve got a lot of things that I want to achieve in my swimming career and as far as I’m concerned this is just the very beginning."