World Championships, Day 3 Finals: Matt Richards Leads Home Tom Dean In British 1-2 In 200 Free

Matthew Richards of Great Britain competes in the Men's Freestyle 200m Heats during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 24th, 2023.
Matt Richards: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships, Day 3 Finals: Matt Richards Leads Home Tom Dean In British 1-2 In 200 Free

Matt Richards led home Tom Dean by 0.02 as Britain claimed a historic 1-2 in the 200 free at the World Championships in Fukuoka.

Richards turned third at 150 but a final 50 of 26.53 propelled him past leader and defending champion David Popovici to take the touch in 1:44.30 and become the second Briton to win the title, eight years after James Guy‘s gold at Kazan 2015.

It was a PB and Welsh record for the 20-year-old, lowering his previous best of 1:44.83 from the British trials in April to go ninth all-time.

Dean was fifth at the last turn before sweeping past the field with the fastest split of 26.42 to touch in 1:44.32, 0.10 outside his British record of 1:44.22 from the Tokyo Olympics where he led home Duncan Scott for a British one-two.

It marked the first time two British men have shared the 200 free podium at the World Championships and bodes well for the 4×2 in which GB are Olympic champions and with Guy and Scott to come in.

Hwang Sunwoo claimed third in 1:44.42, a PB just 0.03 outside Sun Yang’s Asian record of 1:44.39 with Popovici – who had led until the final 25 – outside the medals in fourth in 1:44.90.

Matt Richards Budapest

Matt Richards: Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

It was a first global individual final for Richards who said:

“It’s definitely a pretty cool feeling.

“I said after Tokyo being part of that 4×2 gold that the next step for me was trying to win individual medals.

“Last year was a bit of a setback for me. It wasn’t quite going my way but I made some changes and learned a lot from a tough year.

“So it feels pretty incredible now to be stood on top of the podium a year out from an Olympics again.

“It fills me with a lot of confidence but the work is far from done yet.”

Popovici was hoping to join the likes of Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe in an elite club of men who’ve twice won the title.

Michael Gross and Sun Yang – towing his doping positive – are also members of the club but the Romanian will have to wait another two years for a chance to be admitted.

However, Richards nodded to the 18-year-old who is the third-fastest man in history with a best of 1:42.97.

“We’ve still got guys like David Popovici going 1:42s so a 1:44.3 is great but that may not be enough to win it next year.

“We’ve got a big step of work to do now to get to where we want to be next year.”

Dean – who upgraded from bronze last year in Budapest – said:

“I was breathing the other way so I couldn’t see the other boys but I was just like ‘get your head down, work for that last wall.’

“I’ve had so many people come up to me and say ‘that was a great race’.

“I wish I could have watched it but unfortunately I was in it.”

The pair will reunite in the men’s 4x200m in which they were just 0.03 outside the WR in Tokyo in 6:58.58, the United States’ standard of 6:58.55 safe until Friday at least.

Tom Dean of Great Britain competes in the Men's Freestyle 200m Heats during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 24th, 2023.

Tom Dean: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Richards went 1:45.01 in Tokyo, a split you’d expect him to considerably lower in Fukuoka, as they look to win the title for the third time following victories in 2015 and 2017.

He said:

“It’s pretty special. Me and Tom were chatting just before we got our medals: it’s got to be one of the most dominant events for a country in the history of the sport.

“Our 4×200 relay in a few days’ time, we’ve got two individual world champions, an individual Olympic champion and a guy, Duncan Scott, who’s had world and Olympic medals on that event multiple times.

“It’s definitely a really dominant event for us but it’s incredible for me to have my turn on top of that podium and hopefully continue that success going forwards.”

Hwang Just Outside Asian Record; Woe For Popovici

Hwang – who won silver last year in Budapest –

“At 150m I knew I was in second place. Popovici was a little ahead of me so I just wanted to get ahead of him.

“In the last 50m of the race Richards and Dean showed an excellent performance.

“I am very happy that I could get my personal record and be able to get the bronze medal in my hand.

“From now on I will try my very best to prepare for the Paris Olympics next year.”

Popovici was 0.79 ahead of Hwang at the final turn but he swam the slowest final 50 of the field in 28.12 and said:

“Oh it felt awful. It felt awful. But that means we can improve something, and that’s a good thing because if you have the absolute perfect race and you have nothing to improve, you know you basically have reached the top, the limit, you can do nothing better from there on.

“I’m glad it happened now, and I’m sure it has a meaning and I’m going to learn from it.”

The 18-year-old will now turn his attention to the 100 in which he’s the defending champion and world record-holder.

He said:

“The 100 fortunately is two times shorter. That doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt. I don’t think it’s going to hurt as bad, though.

“I love the 200 race. I love the 100 race, as well. For tomorrow, I have to make sure I sleep well and eat well.”



2023-07-25 (2)


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