Former Sheffield Hallam University student targets Tokyo Olympics gold medal

A former Sheffield Hallam University student is targeting an Olympic gold medal after he secured qualification for this summer’s Tokyo Games.

By Steve Jones
Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 4:05 pm

Swimmer Max Litchfield who studied physiotherapy from 2013 to 2018 and trained at Ponds Forge, was just under two seconds away from a medal at Rio 2016 when he finished fourth in the 400m Individual Medley.

He has now made the grade for Toyko qualification along with his younger brother Joe after he won the same event and achieved the consideration time of four minutes and 13 seconds at the British Tokyo 2020 trials earlier this month.

Max, 26, who was born in Sheffield but grew up in Pontefract, told The Star: “The goal is just going to be to go there and try and win a medal.

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Max wants to improve on the fourth-placed finish he achieved at Rio 2016.

"I made my dreams come true in making an Olympic team and making a big final in 2016, the natural next step is to go there and wanting to win a medal.”

He added: “It would be amazing to go there and win it, that would be the true goal.”

Loughborough-based Max specialises in the 400m Individual Medley and won gold at the 2019 European Short Course Championships. He also swam for England in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and has competed at two World Championships, setting his personal best time in 2017.

Still, he classes his fourth-placed finish in Rio as the highlight of an impressive career to date.

Former Sheffield Hallam student Max Litchfield looks set to make his second Games.

Max, who receives funding from Sky Sports’ Scholars programme, which sponsors some of Britain’s best up-and-coming athletes, said: "That year no one expected me to even make the team.

"The Olympics is nothing like anything else, it's the pinnacle of swimming and a lot of sports. There's just something slightly different about an Olympics, the atmosphere it creates.

"In a World Championships you don't get the entire nation watching you. Even people that don't like swimming or don't usually watch tune in.”

Uncertainty persists over The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, however, with the start of the Olympics now fewer than 100 days away.

A senior member of the Japanese government this week said they should be cancelled if the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible to host them safely – and polls indicate low support among the Japanese public.

But Max said: “Just because the pandemic has happened doesn't mean we can't work towards an Olympics. It's just been a matter of forgetting what people are saying.

“All the guys at Sky and Loughborough have been amazing throughout that whole period supporting myself in and out of the pool. This [Sky Sports Scholars] should have ended last year but for them to extend it for another year is amazing."

Whatever happens, Max, whose dad Peter played professional football for clubs including Preston North End and Bradford City, is grateful for his time in Sheffield, which he sees as crucial to his development – even if there wasn’t much time to enjoy the student nightlife on offer.

“It’s all about sacrifices,” he said, “it will be worth it in the end.

“I know going to Sheffield was the right move at that time and it paid dividends. I went from a junior swimmer in 2013/2013 to going to the Olympics in 2016.”

Max Litchfield is a participant of the Sky Sports Scholars programme – a scheme that has provided funding and a range of support to up-and-coming athletes on their journey to Tokyo.