Going for Gold!
Matthew Lack from Opotiki is a rising star in New Zealand wheelchair racing. At the age of 18, he already holds three world records and has qualified for the Commonwealth Games in October. His next goal? The Paralympics of course!
Matthew first became interested in wheelchair racing when he went to the Eve Rimmer Games in Whakatane a few years ago. It’s a fun event that gives disabled people the opportunity to try out activities like swimming, track and field, para-equestrian, wheelchair racing and wheelchair basketball.
“I saw a few wheelchair racers there,” Matthew says. “One of them let me have a go in their chair and I really enjoyed it. A few years later I met my coach at the Games and she asked if I wanted to go to a coaching clinic with her. So I went, jumped in a racing chair and before you knew it I had bought myself a chair!”
Matthew competes in a high end Invacare racing chair.
“It’s different from my day chair,” he says. “I kneel in it. The back wheels are cambered, and it’s only got three wheels – one at the front and two at the back.”
Matthew’s been racing competitively now for almost five years and he’s already racked up around 250 medals and 10 trophies.
“I’ve got so many, there’s no room at home to display them all,” he says.
He also holds three world records in the U20s wheelchair racing for 800m, 1500m, 5km events, and he qualified for the Commonwealth Games this year.
To qualify and compete in all these events means Matthew has to travel around the world regularly. Next on the list is a track meet in Canberra, which is an IBC sanctioned event.
“The main reason I am going is so that I can qualify for World Series next year. I’m going purely to get a time.”
The World Series of Wheelchair Racing matches the world's finest wheelchair racers against each other in events across the globe. Athletes earn points from track and road events at each leg of the Series. The athletes with the highest point total, regardless of gender or class, are named the top 10 in the world.
Matthew used to compete in all the racing events, but now that he has to qualify for the World Series he specialises in 800m, 1500m and 5k.
Matthew’s parents are his biggest supporters, and his father travels with him when he can. The cost of the trips can get quite expensive, but this year Matthew is being sponsored by Invacare, which has been a great help to him and his family.
According to Matthew, wheelchair racing is not a big deal in New Zealand and he would like to see more support for the sport.
“There are a couple of other people who dabble in it but they don’t do it seriously. I’m going to Christchurch for the New Zealand Nationals and there are three people taking part in the first two events. After that, it’s just me – racing on my own!”
So how does he keep himself motivated?
“You’ve got to go, you’ve got to get yourself out there. If you don’t do any events in New Zealand it will just die out.”
He says wheelchair racing is a much bigger sport in Australia.
“I go over there regularly and sometimes travel with the Australian team to places like Switzerland and the States.”
Matthew is committed to his sport and says what he enjoys most about it is the competition. He has good advice for anyone looking to get involved.
“Stick with it. Just don’t quit!”
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