Pushing the limits

Matt Levy - Paralympian, OAM medalist & charity ambassador.


Born prematurely, with cerebral palsy and vision impairment, swimmer Matt Levy’s combination of determination and hard work has seen him test the limits of his own ability to become one of our best Paralympic athletes – and a strong medal contender in this year’s Rio games.

Speaking with Matt Levy, it would be easy to forget that you’re talking to a six-time Paralympic medallist, Order of Australia Medal recipient, children's charity and Australian day ambassador.

It’s this hard work and determination that has seen Matt become one of Australia’s best Paralympic swimmers.

His humble spirit and easy-going attitude bely the fact that, beneath the surface, lies an intensely focussed competitor who is determined to make the most of his abilities in the pool – and doesn’t waste a second in chasing his goals.

In training for this year’s Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, due to kick off in August, he’s deep in the final stages of preparation. Most days, he’s up at 4am for a three-hour training session before starting work. Then he’s back at the pool from 4pm–7pm each night.

“It doesn’t leave a lot of time to relax,” he laughs. “By the time I get home, it’s almost time to go to bed!’

It’s this hard work and determination that has seen Matt become one of Australia’s best Paralympic swimmers. At age 29, Matt is already a veteran of the sport, with three Paralympic Games and six medals – including two golds – under his belt.

Developing a template for success

For Matt, success is all about doing what you enjoy – and testing the limits of what you can achieve.

“If you enjoy something, then a lot of good things come from it, he says. “I’m passionate about what I do, and I love to understand how far I can push my body and mind – and to do everything I can to achieve a goal.”

He believes that maintaining a positive attitude is essential, and has been working with a hypnotherapist to help him work through his doubts, and develop a template for success.

“90% of sport is mental. To get to the top doesn’t require luck, it takes perseverance and courage as well,” says Matt. “The majority of us don’t reach our goals the first time, so you have to persevere.”

But that’s not to say that Matt is driven only by winning, and he readily admits that part of what he loves about swimming are the opportunities it’s created in his life.

“I started swimming for health reasons – I was born early, with cerebral palsy and vision impaired, and my parents thought it might help.”

“It’s great for fitness, but it’s also been a great way to meet people. I’ve loved being part of a team – the teamwork and mateship is really important.”

Beneath the surface, lies an intensely focussed competitor who is determined to make the most of his abilities in the pool – and doesn’t waste a second in chasing his goals.

Matt also loves that swimming has opened up the chance to travel.

“It’s pretty cool to go to different countries and have the experience of interacting with lots of different types of people. It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to travel to Brazil – without swimming, I probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity.”

And while the recent Olympics were marred by a number of violent crimes that left many able-bodied athletes worried for their safety – Matt says he’s unconcerned.

“We are in a village environment and it is pretty controlled, so muggings and any incidents should be well contained. But you can only control the controllable and do what you would do on a daily basis back home.”

Ready for Rio

Matt heads to the Rio games hoping to add to his impressive medal haul. But, despite his rigorous preparation and Paralympic experience, he says there are no guarantees.

“I’ve trained pretty hard, but everyone goes there to win a medal,” he says. “You can’t determine the result.”

“I just want to do my personal best, see what I’m capable of and what the hard training has brought. If I get a medal out of that, then that’s a bonus.”


Want to cheer Matt on?

The Paralympics will be broadcast on the Seven Network from 8-19 September 2016. You can cheer Matt on in the following events:

9 September – 50m Freestyle S7
12 September – 50m Butterfly S7
13 September200m IM Medley 

14 September4x100m Freestyle Relay
16 September100m Freestyle S7
17 September – 4x100m Medley Relay


 
You can also leave Matt a message of support here
   

Matt Levy is an ambassador for children’s charity, Life’s Little Treasures Foundation, which assists families of babies born prematurely. He is also an Australia Day ambassador, speaking at Australia Day ceremonies around the country.

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