From Australia to Tokyo... via Sleaford! Maddy Gough is going for Olympic gold

How Lincolnshire town played its part in swimmer's dream...

Maddy Gough. Photo: Getty Images

Maddy Gough will compete at this summer’s Olympic Games, cheered on by the Australian public... as well as friends and family in Lincolnshire

The 22-year-old may have been born and raised Down Under, but she still has family in the area - and Sleaford can also stake a small claim to aiding her success.

Maddy’s dad Jeremy and his young family left Sleaford for a new life on the other side of the world in 1998, a year before Maddy was born.

But the swimmer still has ties in the area, with her grandmother Nancie Gough living in Heckington - and when the family are back in England visiting, Maddy makes the most of the local facilities.

“I can hardly believe I’m actually going to Tokyo, and am just thrilled to get the chance to race against the best in the world there,” she said.

“I know my grandma has been excitedly telling family and friends that I’m going to the Olympics, and it’s amazing to know that I’ll have people cheering for me in Lincolnshire.

“I swam at the lovely pool in Sleaford for quite a few weeks when we were last back there a few years ago, and everyone was so friendly and so interested in talking to me.

Maddy Gough. Photo: Getty Images

“I vividly remember one lady in the next lane stopping me at the wall and saying ‘I’ll see you at the Olympics’.

“I hope she finds out somehow that my dream did come true … and she actually could see me swim at the Olympics!”

Maddy booked her place on the plane to Tokyo by swimming a new 1,500m freestyle record of 15:46.13.

In doing so she swam 16 seconds under the Australian Olympic qualifying time of 16:02.75 and broke Jessica Ashwood’s six-year record of 15:52.17.

Maddy certainly found form at the right time as her record-breaking time - the fifth sub 16-minute swim of her career - comfortably broke her previous personal best of 15:55.14.

Her time also puts her eighth in the all-time long course event rankings.

"We obviously haven’t been able to get back to Lincolnshire for a few years, but we were last there for an extended period in 2018,” dad Jeremy explained.

“Back then, we used to drive Maddy over to Loughborough to train in the mornings and, in the afternoons, she would swim in a lane at the Sleaford pool.

“It must have done her some good because in 2019 Maddy swam at the World Championships in South Korea where she finished fifth in the 1,500m freestyle.”

The Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony will be held on Friday, with the opening heats of the women’s 1,500m freestyle getting underway on Monday evening.