The 19-year-old City of Sheffield swimmer burst on to the swimming scene as a youngster, winning 11 gold medals from 11 events in the national age groups. Since then he has gone on to win four gold and two silver at the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2011, two gold and one silver at the European Junior Championships in 2012, and two silver and gold the following year. Matthew was also a finalist at the 2012 World Junior Championships, and part of the winning freestyle relay team at the same event the following year.
Describe a typical day.
I get up at 4:15am, have some breakfast and brush my teeth. Then come 5:30am I’m in the pool for a two-hour session. I then finish, grab a second breakfast, and walk across to college for an 8:30am start. I try to stay awake for the day and come 3pm, walk back to Ponds Forge to get back in the pool for 4pm for another 2 hours 15 minutes session. I scram down a snack just in time for the 6:30pm land training session, and this usually finishes around 7:15pm. Usually I get back in the house around 8 - 8:15pm to where I have the luxury of having my tea cooked and out ready for me, by my Mum. I’ll then eat my tea while watching a bit of TV and about 9pm I’ll begin to wind down for the evening. As soon as 9:30pm arrives I can hear my bed calling me and I’m usually asleep by 10pm. Not much of an interesting life but I couldn’t imagine what most would call a normal life.
When did you learn to swim?
I began learning to swim at aged five and passed all my badges by seven. I then began swimming competitively at the age of eight for Borough of Kirklees Swimming Club (BOK).
What is your best event?
I’d say my best event is either the 400 IM or the 200 fly.
What is your favourite event to race?
My favourite event has to be the 400 IM closely followed by the 200 fly. Probably the two hardest events but I just like that burning feeling down the last length, and just the will to keep going.
What is your greatest swimming achievement so far?
My greatest swimming achievement so far would have to be having a 100 per cent individual record at the European Youth Olympic Festival and winning four golds, or either winning my bronze on the 1500 free at the senior nationals at only age 14.
Do you know how many titles or medals you have won?
I don’t keep a record now as it’s so many and so varied. I am told that it’s 48 national titles, including European junior titles, Youth Olympic titles, Commonwealth youth titles and US national titles. For regional and county titles I have not got a clue but well over 100 I think. I don’t tend to concentrate on them now and have not for a while. Finally, I have over 100 British age group and junior/youth records, which again I lost count of a long time ago. I try to concentrate on the future as it’s not what you have won, but what you can win with your potential. You can’t reflect really until you’re retired!
What is your best moment in swimming?
Winning 11 out of 11 golds at nationals in 2009.
And your worst moment in swimming?
Getting beaten by 0.01 on the 200 fly at the short course Youth Commonwealth Games. The only good thing I had from it was I hadn’t trained for two weeks beforehand. A poor relaxed finish was costly!
What was your first overseas or international event?
The LEN open water qualifiers in Israel when I was 14. It was a very good first international experience and I got a nice tan, so can’t complain.
What are your sporting ambitions?
To become multiple Olympic champion and medallist, and hopefully break numerous world records.
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Yes. I have a younger brother called Luke, who is 15 and can be annoying, as many siblings are.
Is he involved in swimming?
He used to be but couldn’t handle the early mornings so packed that in. He now plays rugby.
Does he have any annoying habits?
Many! But the main one is coming in my room when I’m training and pinching my things. He fails to forget I do realise he does this!
What are your hobbies apart from swimming?
I enjoy watching and playing all sports really but the favourite has to be rugby. When I have free time I enjoy going to watch the Leeds Rhinos or go with the boys to watch the mighty Sheffield Wednesday.
What music, singers or bands do you like?
I like all types of music really – just depends what mood I’m in at that moment.
What are your favourite TV programmes?
My favourite programme has to be Only Fools and Horses – never fails to make me laugh. But if I want something a bit more gory I enjoy watching The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.
What was the last film you saw?
If a DVD counts I saw Despicable Me. It has to be one of my favourite films.
What was the last book you read?
Honestly I can’t remember, it’s been that long since I read a book.
What are your favourite food and drink?
I like all foods but nothing beats my Mum’s Sunday roast and it’s got to be lamb! But with regards to drink, lemonade wins it hands down.
Your favourite colour?
What is your favourite holiday destination?
My favourite holiday destination would have to be Dubai or Peru. I’ve been there on swimming camps and competitions and would love to go back and look around.
Do you come from a sporting family?
I suppose so. Dad has always played football and still does, Mum loves rugby and is a season ticket holder at Leeds Rhinos. Luke plays a good level at rugby league and that leaves me, so answer is probably yes.
What makes you so good at your sport?
I think that my support network around me helps massively because without parents, coaches, physios and even team-mates I couldn’t do what I am doing now. But I like racing and hate losing, and this is something you must have if you want to be successful. I also think I put that extra into training and am prepared to do what no one else is doing to get that extra advantage.
Do you have any superstitions?
What is your star sign?
What was your favourite subject at school?
PE but if I had to choose something else it would have to be either geography or history.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which three things would you most want (apart from a phone)?
This is a tough one but first choice is to definitely have my iPod. My second choice would be to have a fridge full of profiteroles and cream. If I’m stranded I may as well enjoy my time. Finally I would want a theme park!
What would be your ideal job or career apart from swimming?
After I finish my swimming career I want to go into sports psychology but I’ve also considered property development. Many hours of daytime TV and Homes Under The Hammer have put this idea in to my head. Plus it’s very financially rewarding!
If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you spent money on?
I think my girlfriend would definitely have a say in what was to be bought first, but I’d buy my own little island and invite friends for a party. Let’s hope I win it!
Do you have any pets?
No, unless you class my brother as one because it’s like looking after one!
If you came back as an animal in a future life, what would you like to be?
I’d want to come back as a monkey just because they’re cool animals and can swing from tree to tree.
Any advice to young up-and-coming athletes?
Don’t ever give up on your dream because with hard work and determination you can get there! If you want it that bad you will never let anything get in your way to achieving that goal. And always think that today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t!