While at the event, we had the opportunity to chat with some of the players - including Matthew, who travelled all the way from Texas to take part. Original from New Plymouth, Matthew’s journey is one of passion, perseverance, and unwavering dedication.
Matthew's love for sports, instilled and supported by his parents, found a new avenue in table tennis, a sport that would become his life's calling. This year marks twelve years of playing and competing for Matthew, showing his immense commitment to the sport.
“My passion for sports is what drew me to table tennis really - I grew up playing sports with my father at a young age, but due to my disability, I couldn’t play any of the contact sports like rugby, cricket, soccer, so instead my mother decided to find a Table Tennis club for me because we had a little Table Tennis table in the garage. So I went there one night, and I didn’t want to leave.”
Matthew's rigorous training regimen, combined with his commitment to self-improvement, has been instrumental in his journey to success.
“At the moment, I train every day; at home, I have a robot and a table tennis table, so I train one to two hours every day. And I have a coach at one of the clubs I go to, I get trained by him twice a week. Another thing that helped me was actually watching one of my recorded matches, which was at the North Island championships last year. That was the year that I beat everyone, so it’s nice to go back to those videos and see how I can improve.”
Matthew's dedication and perseverance have led to remarkable accomplishments, including a national title and international recognition.
“My greatest achievements… I’d definitely include winning the Nationals; that’s been my first achievement so far - another accomplishment would be me and Victor; we both went to Australia, and we came second in the men’s doubles. International victory for me.”
While he has already achieved so much, Matthew's aspirations are still sky-high, with dreams of becoming the best in the world and the Paralympics on the horizon. His relentless pursuit of excellence drives him forward.
“The dream is to become the best table tennis player in the world; that’s no guarantee, but a goal I’m trying to accomplish at the moment would be to get me to the Paralympics. That would be a very big accomplishment. A short-term goal is to win in the Solomon Islands, so that’s the main goal so far. Me and Keegan and James and Matt, all four of us are going. That’s at the end of November.”
Matthew says his key to success lies in his unyielding motivation, drawn from his deep love for the sport and the joy of playing.
“I’ve always loved table tennis, but I find that I just get motivated every time I play against someone. It helps keep me in the game whether I win or lose, as long as I can play table tennis, then I’m always just happy to play.”
We asked Matthew what advice he would give to a beginner athlete living with a disability, and his response was simple yet profound: there's a sport for everyone, and a positive attitude, combined with a supportive community, can overcome any obstacle.
“I’d tell them there’s always a sport for somebody. Maybe you want to play rugby or you want to play table tennis or even chess, there’s always a sport for somebody. And always stay positive, be around positive people - I’ve been fortunate enough to find people like John Tuki and this whole family - we call each other family because we all lift each other’s spirits and take care of each other while we play. I’ve been given nice little choices by other US players, I’ve met some of the para players there, and they’ve all said, "Oh maybe if you didn’t play for New Zealand," but I thought, "No, always a New Zealander, New Zealand’s number 1."
Matthew's incredible journey from New Zealand to the global stage of table tennis is an inspiration to all. His unwavering motivation, dedication to self-improvement, and commitment to staying positive are qualities that have not only propelled him to success but also endeared him to those he encounters on his journey. As Matthew continues to chase his dreams and represent New Zealand on the world stage, his story serves as a reminder that with determination and a love for one's chosen path, anything is possible. Care On Call is proud to have sponsored the Table Tennis New Zealand Para Open Championships and to support athletes like Matthew who inspire us all.