Target: RIO 2016 Paralympic Games
Matt is a true inspiration. His loss of sight and cerebral palsy hasn't stopped him from representing Australia in three Paralympics & five world championships, winning six Paralympic medals and 10 World Championship medals, in addition to winning over 200 international medals at various competitions over his 15 year swimming career.
Matt is currently training very hard for the Rio Paralympics in 2016, and we were delighted to be able to ask him about his hopes, his training and his campaign to help him fund his Paralympic dream.
IsosHealth: When did you realise that you wanted to win an Olympic gold?
Matt: It started when Sydney hosted the 2000 Paralympics. Seeing people with far worse disabilities than my own made me realise that I could achieve something. I just set about training very hard and with dedication from both myself and my family I was selected for the Athens Paralympics in 2004 at age 17 whilst still in high school, which for me was, as for any disabled athlete, a major and exciting achievement.
IsosHealth: Are any of the medals or awards you've won more special or significant to you than the others?
Matt: I have had a lot of awards over the years, but being awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2013 for my services to swimming is special in that you are not only being recognised by your peers, but by the general public as a whole.
IsosHealth: You've set a number of world records - are any more significant to you than others?
Matt: Winning gold in London 2012 as part of the 4x100 freestyle relay is a personal highlight to date. There aren't many times in swimming that you get to compete as a team; to race with three other people and know that they've got your back is amazing!
IsosHealth: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?
Matt: I guess the most challenging aspect is to keep on enjoying what I do. The physical aspect is a given in sport and part of being an athlete. At the end the day all athletes are there to win. To overcome any challenges you just train your hardest and keep focused till the job is done!
IsosHealth: What keeps you motivated?
Matt: The enjoyment of competition and the friends and travel on offer. We travel throughout the year so just enjoying each other's company and soaking up the experience! Also I'm motivated by knowing that I have more to give , even when I feel I can't.
IsosHealth: Do you have another job other than being an elite athlete, and if so how do you fit this into your daily fitness routine?
Matt: I work for a bank for 26 hours a week, from 8am-3pm. so I train before and after work. I get up at 4am to train at 5 then go back in the afternoon for swim or gym. I train in the pool 7 sessions per week for 2 hours each, as well as the gym, yoga and Pilates along with a Physiotherapist session and massage fortnightly. I fit in roughly 30 hours of training per week.
IsosHealth: How important is your nutrition as an athlete? What sort of meals do you eat while preparing for competition?
Matt: Nutrition is very important - I tend to eat consistently throughout the day! I normally eat before every training session and have a protein shake after. I have berries, oats and nuts in the morning, and then breakfast of avocado on rye bread with feta. I normally eat chicken or beef at lunchtime with rice and vegetables, then have fish for dinner after another round of training.
IsosHealth: What are your goals and what drives them?
Matt: I still want to do better than I already have. Just to improve and be the best I can be. Everyone has weakness and aspects to improve on. To know at the end of the day I have turned over every stone and every avenue. My next major goal is Rio 2016. Then after that just keep improving on my performances.
IsosHealth: Tell us more about the Rio games - as this is your fourth games do you think you might break any more world records?
Matt: I think that going out there to break records will ultimately set yourself up for failure . I'll be going to Rio (the first national trials) to have fun - nothing ever lasts forever so I plan to follow the same process as I have in previous Games, to enjoy myself and take what I can, positive or negative from the experiences! That way I can work out what the negatives were and improve again next time.
IsosHealth: Are you sponsored to take part? If not how are you able to fund this?
Matt: Air fares to get to the games are paid for by the Australian Paralympic committee and we stay in the athletes village which is covered by the games. But in terms of getting there, the training, travel to local and interstate competitions , training fees and accommodation for nationals and various camps before the games all comes out of the athletes' own pockets. This is obviously really difficult to achieve without additional financial support.
Matt is trying to raise funds to help him with his Paralympic dream- it costs an average of $10,000 per year for him to take part in the build-up and training for the Paralympics, and Matt has set up a crowdfunding page to help him raise just $5000 for further training and competitions in the run up to Rio - let's see if we can't help him smash yet another goal!
Matt's Paralympic dream is always a four-year cycle, from dreaming big enough to wanting to take part through to believing in himself and pushing himself ever harder to train for the particular goal. In his own words:
"I think to achieve something first you need to believe you can do it. The training is easy compared to getting your mind to think you can do it. That is what makes a good athlete, great!"
We could all definitely learn a thing or two about motivation from Matt! For expert support and motivation to achieve your wellness health goals speak withIsosHealthleading wellness expertsSuggest a correction