'Unfinished business' for Team GB's Teessider Richard Kilty after 2020 Olympic heartbreak

Richard Kilty with his wife Dovile Dzindzaletaite and their son
-Credit: (Image: Evening Gazette)

Teesside Tornado Richard Kilty says he has “unfinished business” when goes in search of an Olympic medal in Paris after it was confirmed he had been selected for the Great Britain 4x100m relay squad.

The former World and European 60m sprint champion suffered the heart-break of having to hand back the silver medal he won at the 2020 Olympic Games when sprint relay team-mate CJ Ujah failed a doping test. Having come close to retiring from athletics after losing all of his funding on the back of an achilles tear that saw him ruled out for more than a year, the Teesside sprinter admitted to feeling 'very emotional' at the news that he was part of the squad for next month’s Olympics.

And his selection means he and his wife Dovile will be Teesside’s first husband-and-wife team to compete at the same Olympics, as 11-times Lithuanian triple jump champion Dovi is also set to compete in Paris.

“When I suffered a major Achilles tear less than a year after losing my Olympic medal, it looked like my career was over," Kilty admitted. "I was going to retire because I was injured, I was dropped from the British team and I’d lost all of my sponsorship and funding.

“But I decided to give it one last go. I didn’t have a coach so I’ve trained on my own, driven by grit and determination. I’ve had to put my body through a lot. I’m running faster now than I’ve done for eight years but I was very emotional when I learned I’d been selected after what I’ve gone through these past couple of years.

"I’m so proud of myself. Throughout my career every time the odds have been against me, it’s tended to bring the best out of me. It must be my tough Teesside mentality.”

Kilty, who was born in Middlesbrough but raised in Stockton where he still lives, has been selected in a five-man 4x100m relay squad alongside long-term team-mates Zarnel Hughes and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake plus fast-rising stars Louie Hinchcliffe and Jeremiah Azu, who took first and second in the 100m at last week’s British Athletics Championships.

“What a team that is,” he said. “It’s an insane team, probably the strongest we’ve ever assembled. We’re going there to win a medal, preferably a gold – and we’ve got every chance in the world of doing that. It won’t be easy, of course. The Americans will be tough, the Jamaicans will be tough, the French will be hard to beat on home territory.

"But we’re going to try and rewrite history. When we’re out on the track, what happened last time won’t be on my mind but it will 100% motivate me. I’ve definitely got unfinished business.”

Kilty, who won silver as part of Great Britain’s 4x100m team at the 2019 World Championships, is particularly excited that he’ll be joined in the Olympic Village by his wife Dovi following her selection to represent Lithuania, the country of her birth.

Despite competing at five World Athletics Championships, it will be former World Junior and European Under-23 champion Dovi’s first Olympics after she missed out on the 2016 Games as she was heavily pregnant and then suffered a serious calf injury while preparing for the 2020 competition.

Backed by seven-year-old son, Richard Jnr, the pair prepared for their Olympic selection by training together at Middlesbrough Sports Village.

“I’m so happy and proud for Dovi,” said Kilty. “She’s a full-time mother and pretty much trains on her own so to qualify for the Olympics is some achievement. She’s a proud Lithuanian but she’s lived here for 10 years. Teesside is her home now. So I really hope Teessiders will celebrate her selection as much as they do mine.

“It’s incredible to think we’ll be at the Olympics as husband and wife. We’ll surely be the first from Teesside to do that. It’ll be a real family effort to look after Richard while we’re out there but we’re hoping to get him over there to see us. What an amazing experience that will be for him, to see his mam and dad competing at the Olympics.”

Before then, however, Richard and Dovi aim to support Richard Jnr at his sports day at Whitehouse Primary School next Tuesday, with his Olympian parents promising to team up for the mam-and-dad races too!