24 October 2018
Swimming star Richter ready for paratriathlon challenge
Three podium finishes in her first major swimming championships mean Megan Richter has already had a season to remember.
But now the 17-year-old is set for another first, as she makes her international paratriathlon debut this weekend – with her sights set on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and beyond.
Richter may not be the first paratriathlete to have started out as a swimmer but very few take on both sports simultaneously so early in their career.
But after a trio of podium finishes at the World Para Swimming European Championships in Dublin in August, the teenager is ready for her latest challenge – the Madeira Paratriathlon World Cup in Funchal, where she will be the youngest starter.
“I’m really excited to be racing this weekend,” said Richter, who still identifies swimming as her main sport.
“I really enjoy triathlon at the moment without too much pressure, it’s just something I love to do.
“I’m quite nervous though. I’ve competed a lot at international level in swimming but I have no idea about the international field in triathlon. It will be really exciting to get to meet people.
“I needed to vary my swimming training anyway, so I’ve enjoyed it! When you’re mainly a backstroker in the pool like me, it can get a bit repetitive.
“Being able to focus on two different strokes in training is a lot more interesting.”
Richter’s success in the pool at the Europeans this summer saw her win silver in the S8 100m backstroke and SM8 individual medley, while also taking bronze in the SB7 100m breaststroke.
She isn’t coming to triathlon from a purely swimming background however, having previously competed in athletics at national level.
Richter admits that “cycling is the discipline I’m weakest at” but working with coach Becky Hewitt and being part of the British Triathlon Talent Squad has helped the youngster improve no end.
“I’m pleased to have slowly added running back into my training,” she explains. “It’s so useful for aerobic fitness for swimming, and it’s made a big difference.
“I’m starting to go out more on the bike as well and I’m definitely getting a lot better. It has helped my technique so much working with Becky.”
Richter cites Ellie Simmonds’ swimming success at the 2012 London Paralympic Games as a huge source of motivation, while para-swimmers-turned-triathletes Lauren Steadman and Claire Cashmore are names that also quickly come to mind in terms of inspiration.
Looking ahead, the 17-year-old initially struggled to decide between the two sports, until it was announced that her classification for triathlon wasn’t included for Tokyo 2020.
“That kind of made the decision for me,” said Richter
“I will mainly focus on swimming until 2020, while continuing with triathlon, and then reassess at the start of the next Paralympic cycle."
“Next season, I would absolutely love to go to more international paratriathlon races.”
Before Tokyo, Richter has to finish school and her lofty ambitions are not limited to sport – last week applying to study medicine at university.
“I would hopefully be starting university straight after the Paralympics,” she added. “Then I would have to decide the route I go down after that.”
And having already demonstrated a variety of sporting talents, you wouldn’t back against Dr Richter walking around a hospital with a Paralympic gold medal around her neck in the future.
By Marthe de Ferrer
Photo credit: David Tyrrell
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