Matt Richardson isn’t shy about what he expects to achieve in Paris.

“My goal is to win three gold medals,” the West Australian says, as he sits in the middle of the Adelaide Super-Drome — the home of Australia’s cycling team.

“I’m not going be disappointed if I don’t win three gold medals, but I might as well set the bar as high as possible and put it all out on the line and just dare to be great.”

There’s no reason he shouldn’t be confident. He’s the reigning individual sprint and team sprint Commonwealth Games champion.

And he was part of the only team to disrupt the Netherlands recent World Championship dominance of the team sprint, claiming the rainbow jersey in 2022 along with Matthew Glaetzer, Leigh Hoffman and Thomas Cornish.

The Dutch have won every other title since 2018, including gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

Australian cyclist Matthew Richardson (centre) is working hard ahead of the games. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

But while the Netherlands — along with strong Japan and Britain teams — loom as contenders at the games, Richardson doesn’t waste energy looking outside the sloping track of the velodrome in Adelaide’s north.

“You can’t impact what someone else is doing, all you can control is what you’re doing yourself,” he said.

“As long as I’m doing everything I possibly can that’s all I can ask. 

“Worrying about what times someone else is doing isn’t really relevant.”

From the gym to the track

Richardson’s journey to being one of the world’s best sprinters was a bit different to others.

Born in England, he started gymnastics as a two-year old and competed in his first event as a four-year old.

Richardson looked to be on track for a career in gymnastics, selected for national programs in England and going on camps.

His family moved to Perth when he was nine, but he continued in the sport until he suffered an elbow injury.

“That meant I had to take about 18 months out of the sport,” he said.

Richardson was already riding once a week after being invited to the Midvale SpeedDome, and the transition was sealed by his injury.

Matthew Richardson is one of Australia’s leading sprint cyclists. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

“I was just doing a little bit on the side and the elbow injury happened. And that was basically Friday afternoon in the doctor’s office, and by Monday, I was a track cyclist.”

He wasn’t an immediate star on the bike.

“It was definitely a slow burn. Like I was pretty bad when I first started,” Richardson conceded.

It was a different environment to gymnastics, where technical skills play a big role in success. Track cycling requires size and power.

“You could be an absolute beast at 15 just because you’re more developed,” Richardson said.

“In cycling at that age, just because you work the hardest doesn’t mean you’ll be the best.

“Under-17’s was my first nationals, and there were guys that looked like men, and they would win. They were so much better.”

It wasn’t until he was 19 that Richardson started to believe he could excel in sprinting.

“That’s kind of when my mindset shifted to a more elite athlete sort of mindset,” he said.

“Training is important, and I’m going to eat properly and sleep properly, and you mature and everything kind of happens and flows on at the same time.”

Elevation to elite

The last six years have been a whirlwind for the 25-year old, who only moved to Adelaide in 2019.

Two years later he finished fourth in the team sprint at the Tokyo Olympics, before claiming two gold medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and claiming the rainbow jersey as a world champion in the team sprint in France the following year.

“I kind of sit there and pinch myself when I kind of look back on the last few years of what it’s been like,” he said.

Matthew Richardson has been fine-tuning his preparation at the Adelaide Super-Drome.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“I feel like the last Olympics was not where I wanted to be, not the form that I wanted to kind of have for that Olympics.

“Very quickly after that, within a year or two, I just kind of shot up and the results just started flowing. It all happened very quickly.”

The team is going to Portugal for 10 days prior to the Olympics, to acclimatise to the European summer.

Richardson is trying to prepare for Paris like he would any other major cycling competition.

“I always switch on to the maximum level, whether it’s state champs, national champs, bowling against my grandma, like literally anything,” he said.

Matthew Richardson works with his coach Matt Crampton in Adelaide ahead of the Paris Olympics.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“I think allows me to be in a headspace where I’m not over-aroused at a competition that’s bigger than others, because I’m always at my maximum no matter what.

“That’s what I learned from Tokyo. That I kind of came through that experience. And I wasn’t over pressured or overexcited.

“I kind of handled the pressure very well of being the biggest sporting stage that my career can kind of reach. So I’m just going to try and do the same thing again.”

What is track sprint cycling?

The individual sprint is a mix of tactics and explosive power across three laps of a 250 metre velodrome.

The track itself can vary in width and angle, with the velodrome in Paris measuring eight-metres wide, with a maximum angle of 43.8 degrees.

The first two laps are spent trying to outfox your opponent, before the riders accelerate into an all-out effort.

Sprinting is far more tactical than it may seem.(AAP: Dan Peled)

The bikes are engineered to be as light as possible, and that means there are no brakes, and the gear is fixed.

There are several events held in the velodrome, including the individual and team sprints, and the Keirin on the sprint side, with endurance events consisting of the team pursuit, omnium and madison.

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