OLYMPIC champion Duncan Goodhew believes Millfield’s ‘special culture’ provides the perfect training base for Paris medal hopefuls Matt Richards and James Guy.

Swimming star Richards made the surprise decision to leave the Bath National Centre in late 2022 and justified that call when storming to world 200m freestyle gold in Fukuoka last year.

Double Tokyo gold-medallist James Guy followed suit after feeling his performances had dropped off - and Goodhew recalls fondly the scent of excellence that fills the world-famous school.

“Top sport is about getting a whole bunch of things right,” said Goodhew, who won breaststroke gold at Moscow 1980.

“Yes, it's the physical training but the environment, and how the environment reflects on you, it's how you feel about yourself and the trust you have as well as convenience, which is really important.

“When you put the whole package together, Millfield as a school is extraordinary.

“It's been ahead of countries in the medal table for quite a few days at the Olympics.

“There's something about Millfield in its DNA where no matter what you're doing, you're open to the fact that it could go the whole way. That’s a special culture.”

Guy, unlike Richards, is a former pupil of the school but the personnel has changed since he first left, with the operation now headed up by Director of Swimming Euan Dale and head coach Ryan Livingstone.

Goodhew insists that their athletes will be primed to succeed mentally as well as physically.

“As the Cubans once said to me, if you had two athletes of the same ability, which one would win. The answer is the one that wins at chess,” he said.

“It's vital you intellectually know when the right time to move the pieces are, whether it's the training, whether it's how you behave, what you're doing, when you do it, how you do it.

“For some, winning is physical because they are so good. In my case, it was a real intellectual exercise on how you get there and win before you get in the water.”

Yet the success of the GB team – who finished third in the swimming medal table in Tokyo – is at odds with the participation numbers at grassroots level.

Since 2010, more than 400 swimming pools have closed in Britain and while those numbers are a concern, they also highlight just how good the GB operation has become.

“I think the whole of the GB team has done incredibly well,” said Goodhew, who was speaking at the Youth Sport Trust Young Changemaker Awards.

“COVID and facilities are closing because of fuel costs, and that swimming at schools is not where it should be.

“You're not getting the swimming numbers that you used to, yet at the top, we’re performing and producing a quality of swimmers that we've never had before.

“That gives you some indication of how good the coaching and support staff are to make that happen.”

The Youth Sport Trust Young Changemaker Awards celebrate individuals and groups of young people who have made a real and impactful change to their life and the lives of others