Beijing Olympic 1500m freestyle competitor, Richard Charlesworth, returned to visit the club where it all began this weekend. It was at Hemel Hempstead Swimming Club that Charlesworth first cut his teeth as a competitive swimmer and on Sunday he came back to encourage the next generation of swimmers.
Charlesworth joined the club at 8 years’ old. Head Coach, Charles Dainton, who oversaw the Olympian’s early successes, remembers him as one of the few swimmers he’s even seen performing butterfly with a smile on his face!
At first Charlesworth shone as a breaststroke specialist, but as he developed in training, he became more of a distance freestyler. His development proves how junior swimmers’ strengths can change and is a reminder to youngsters not to try to specialise too early.
At 13 years’ old he moved to Hatfield, a club which could offer the long hours of training necessary to get to the very top. At the age of 15, he won the 1500m freestyle on his first Nationals outing in the event, having only raced it a couple of times beforehand.
Charlesworth was later selected to train at the offshore centre in Australia, where he also attended school. He typically swims 75-80 kilometres a week, as well as putting in 5 hours’ land training.
The 6’4” athlete was taught to swim as a child by his aunt, Christine Thompson, who still coaches junior squads at HHSC. She remembers him achieving his 200m badge at the age of six and standing apart from many other youngsters because, unlike most boys in particular, he was good at listening and taking instruction.
When he’s not training, Charlesworth enjoys playing golf and tennis and going to the movies. He used to be a keen basketball player. He is due to go to the University of California to study a degree in architecture, as well as beginning his campaign in earnest for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Charlesworth showed himself to be a great ambassador for his sport, talking to each swimming group at the club in turn and taking questions. Amongst other things, he was asked how many medals he’s won (too many to count) and whether he has any friends!
He then joined the County and Regional Squads for their training session, showing them a few tricks along the way.
Charles Dainton presented his former swimmer with a certificate from the club to honour the Olympian’s achievements.
For photographs of Richard’s visit, click here.