Sunderland’s Wylie looks back on golden year

June 28th 2017
For 20-year old City of Sunderland swimmer Matthew Wylie, 2016 was a breakthrough year. Starting the year with a gold medal in Glasgow, Wylie went on to have the best 12 months of his swimming career so far. For 20-year old swimmer Matthew Wylie, 2016 was a golden year. Starting the year with a gold medal in Glasgow, Wylie went on to have the best 12 months of his swimming career so far. Having only joined the podium programme in 2015, Wylie’s S9 50m Freestyle gold medal in Rio was a monumental achievement.

Having swum with a disability swimming club from a young age, Wylie always loved being in the water. Under the advice of physios, Wylie continued to swim and joined the City of Sunderland swimming club where in 2012 he broke British, European and World Records in various freestyle events aged just 15. With London 2012 gold medallist Josef Craig also based in Sunderland, Matt believes that “being in the presence of such elite athletes who are the same age has really pushed me to the standard I am at now”.

Last year got off to a great start for Wylie as he won gold at the British Para-Swimming international Meet in Glasgow breaking his PB in the process. His time in Glasgow was fast enough to get the qualification time for the Paralympic games, meaning that he was on his way to Rio.

Matt also picked up his first European title in 2016, after recording the fastest qualifying time going into the final Wylie came first the S9 50m Freestyle gold in Funchal. This was his second European Championships, having competed in Eindhoven in 2014 where he just missed out on the podium, finishing fourth in both the 50m and 400m freestyle events. Added to this a bronze in the 4x100m Freestyle in Funchal and Wylie was in great shape in the build up to Rio.

Matt describes the events of 2016 as “a culmination of seven years of hard work with coach Danny Thompson” Highlighting the particular effort that went into the final run-up to Rio. “The final 12-18 months was just about perfecting everything. I’d wake up and work on one aspect in my morning session until it was done. Go home, get some rest and then be back in the pool to work on another aspect in the afternoon. Making sure one thing was right in every session was a bit stressful but the result is always definitely worth it,” Matt added.

Part of the inspiration group for London 2012, Matt’s hard work in the four years between Games ensured that for Rio 2016 he was in the pool rather than in the stands. Matt’s debut Paralympic Games saw him touch first in the Men’s S9 50m Freestyle, beating Australia’s Timothy Disken by 0.04 seconds in a final where the top five swimmers were separated by sixteen-hundredths of a second.

Following on from this, Matt swam the third leg of the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay where they came in fourth place, missing out on a medal by just over a second from the Chinese team.

Having put so much of his life into Swimming, Matt was delighted to see his hard work bare fruit describing his achievements in Rio as “a dream come true.” On his return to British soil he was given an extended break by his coach and during those three months off Matt was able to relax and recover ahead of the new season.

Although Matt may not have been in the pool training during that period, his status as Paralympic Champion ensured that he was always busy. A highlight for Matt in the wake of the Games was the homecoming parade which included visit to Buckingham Palace. “Normally we only really see the pool and the gym so it was fantastic to experience the other side of being a professional sportsman that comes with winning a medal,” Matt said.

However, the break had to come to an end eventually, and at the end of April Matt was back in the pool as the British Para-Swimming International Meet 2017 took place at Ponds Forge in Sheffield. The meet was a surprisingly successful one as he took gold in the 50m Freestyle. Matt admitted that he himself was shocked at how quick he swam in Sheffield, but described his performance as a “fantastic platform to build on for the rest of the season”. Looking ahead Matt revealed both his short and long-term goals for the future.

With the World Championships being held in Mexico City later this year, Wylie has his eyes set firmly on qualifying for that, and wants to try to chip away at his PB in the build up to October’s event giving him the best possible chance to make the World Championship podium for the first time in his career.