Matthew Wilson – from Learn to Swim to Olympic hopeful

Rising swimming star Matt Wilson, 18 from Springwood, recently made the Australian Swimming Team for the 200m breaststroke at the World Swimming Championships in Budapest in July. Matt, who was named Blue Mountains Sportsperson of the Year on Australia Day in 2016, now trains at Homebush, but learnt to swim at Eva Bory’s Swim School as a small child. It is wonderful to see our learn to swim students go on to achieve such sporting heights in the pool, and we will follow Matt’s progress with great interest! Below is an interview with the driven teenager.
How long have you been swimming for?
I started mini squad in November 2007 just before I turned 9 and raced my very first swim meet in June 2008. So, I’ve been swimming for almost 10 years. I probably started swimming a bit later than most people.
How does it feel to make the Aussie swim team for the World Swimming Championships?
After missing the Olympic team last year by 0.26s and then the Short Course Worlds team by 0.06s it was a huge relief to get the Qualifying Time and get on the team this year. I am really proud to represent Australia which I have done since 2013 when I made my first Junior team but this team is extra special after the disappointment of 2016. I can’t wait to get over there and race.
How often are you training now?
I train 9 pool sessions a week plus 2 gym sessions as well as dry land sessions and pilates.
Are you doing anything special to get ready for the championships?
No, I’m just knuckling down in training and working hard on my technique and speed as I normally do. I several training camps in the lead up to the actual world championships though and I will be racing in Paris before the event with our final staging camp is in The Netherlands. The staging camp is where the entire Australia Dolphins team will come together before the main event in Budapest.
Do you still go to school? Winmalee High?
No, I finished school last year. I am currently in my first year of a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science at ACU, Strathfield.
How are you juggling that and swimming?
I am going to Uni part-time and I am in the Elite Athlete and Performer program which helps athletes balance their training, competition and Uni schedules. It’s very flexible and they have been great with my swimming commitments so far.
Who is coming with you to Budapest?
I will travel with my coach Adam (who is also on the team, his first as a national coach) to the lead up event in Paris and then we will join the rest of the Dolphins at the staging camp in The Netherlands. My mum. dad and sister are going to travel to Budapest to watch the World Championships and it will be great to have them there for support.
Have you been to Europe before? I know you travelled to Singapore for swimming, where else have you been?
I have never been to Europe before so this will be an awesome experience. I have been on Australian Junior teams since 2013 so I have been lucky to see some different places in the world.
2013 – Tokyo, Japan
2014 – Hawaii
2015 – Thailand & Singapore
2016 – USA & Hawaii again
You won Blue Mountains Sportsmen’s of the Year last year, tell me about how that felt?
I was very humbled and honoured to win the Sportsmen of the Year and a little surprised especially with so many talented sports people in the mountains. The local community has been a great support to me over the years and I am very grateful for that.
Tell me about some of the records you have broken as a swimmer
I have broken a lot of records over the past 10 years but probably the most memorable was the very first major one I broke when I was 14, on my first Australian Junior team in Tokyo in the 100m breaststroke. It was an Australian age record that had stood for 20 years so that was pretty exciting. I also broke the 200m breaststroke record at the same meet which had been around for about 18 years. Recently, I broke an All-Comers Record at the Victorian Open in the 200m breaststroke that was held by Japanese Olympic medallist and former world record holder, Kosuke Kitajima and this record had been around for 10 years. That was pretty special too.
Tell me about some of the highlights in your career so far?
Representing Australia is a major highlight in my career. I have had that honour for the past 5 years now. Winning my first Australian Championship in the 200m breaststroke in 2015 was also another amazing highlight. I have also met some great people over the years who I have learned a lot from, both coaches and athletes. One significant highlight for me was racing against the Japanese breaststroker, Ryo Tateishi who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. The Japanese are exceptional breaststrokers and I love racing them. He came to Australia to race and I had the honour of racing him in the final at NSW State Open. When I turned up to training the next week, he had left me all his Japanese team gear as a gift which was an awesome surprise.
When do you turn 18?
I just turned 18 in December 2016.
What are your hopes professionally for the future?
I am hoping to make the Commonwealth Games team in 2018 and longer term, my ultimate goal is the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.