It was September 2000 and you could sense the buzz in the air in Sydney during the Olympics. It was everywhere you went and it was the topic on everyone’s lips. I was 13 years old and our school had planned a trip to go and see a number of the events. For me, this wasn’t an ordinary trip, it was my first memory thinking ‘I want to be an olympian’. Watching the inspirational paralympic athletes compete in various sports really opened my eyes to what I could achieve. This experience started me on a journey, which would eventually see me winning six medals at the Paralympic Games.
I was born 15 weeks premature and as a result suffer from a number of disabilities, many of which have been life threatening. I am legally blind, have cerebral palsy and I’ve had 52 operations since birth. My parents encouraged me to swim early in life to improve my health and co-ordination. Due to the bleed on my brain in my early years I was very delayed with all my gross and fine motor skills, so learning to swim was more challenging for me than most, to say the least.
Swimming has opened up so many doors. It’s given me the chance at a future. Not only providing me with an avenue to keep fit, it’s given me a chance to be successful, a chance to travel, to learn life skills. It’s taught me dedication, goal setting and discipline. These are not things you can learn from a textbook. I’ve travelled to rural areas in Australia as the Australia Day Ambassador for the last 10 years, not to mention all of the exotic overseas locations I’ve had the privilege of visiting as a result of swimming meets.
Rio will be my 4th Paralympic Games. This year, I’m honoured to be on the Leadership Team for the Paralympic Swimming Team. My goal is to inspire the new swimmers coming through the ranks about the importance of focusing on what you can do to improve every single day and to keep a clear head. I want them to know that it is not just about medals. Swimming and sport more broadly can provide so, so much more.
It’s my dream to win Gold at Rio, but my ‘road’ won't stop there. I know I can keep achieving more.
Matthew John "Matt" Levy, OAM was born 11 January 1987 and is an Australian Paralympic swimmer. He has been selected to represent Australia at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, which will be his fourth Games. One of his most notable achievements, was competing at the London 2012 Paralympics where he won five medals: a gold medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay, a silver medal in the 100 m freestyle S7, and three bronze medals in the 200 m individual medley SM7, 100 m breaststroke SB7 and 4×100 m medley relay. To recognise his achievements, he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in the 2014 Australia Day Honours for service to sport as a Gold Medalist at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. In 2015 he was named Athlete of the Year with a Disability at the New South Wales Sport Awards.
Follow Matthew Levy on Twitter @matt_levy87