Swimmer and Bachelor of Business (Management) alum Matthew Levy OAM studied with Swinburne Online to boost his employability, while maintaining his demanding training schedule. Now, he’s competing in his fifth consecutive Paralympics Games.
Going for gold in 2021
Matt travels to Tokyo with gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals already on his mantle. But, these Games will be unlike any he’s faced before, drawing on his already extraordinary resilience and capacity to balance competing priorities.
‘It amazing and an honour to be selected. To be selected in one Games is amazing, but to be taking part in my fifth is pretty unreal,’ says Matt. This year, he will be competing in the 100-metre breaststroke, 4x100-metre freestyle relay and the 50-metre freestyle.
Training has been difficult, with the Paralympics Games being delayed from July 2020 to August 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many additional procedures in place for the elite athletes and training has looked quite different in lockdown. Like most Paralympians, Matt has been based in Queensland during the period of preparation.
For Matt, the pandemic has put a greater emphasis on ‘the mental side of things – getting your head around the process and the difference in what we have to do’.
When asked what his focus is in the lead up to the Paralympic Games, Matt says, ‘Just taking one step at a time and remembering what you have done in training’.
Matt will be competing on days 4, 6 and 7.
A juggling act
Matt has long drawn on the obstacles he has faced, and on his story, to help others overcome their own limitations and dare to achieve something greater for themselves. He sees this as his core purpose, and it feeds into his many roles.
Across his lifetime, Matt has dealt with over 50 operations. He was born 15 weeks premature, with cerebral palsy and legally blind. That didn’t hold him back from becoming an elite athlete in the pool. As well as being a Paralympian, Matt is also a motivational speaker and a Change Analyst in the Design, Distribution and Obligation program at Westpac – professionally qualified to deal with change.
He’s been juggling these roles for many years. In 2013–2015 Matt studied during the gaps in his schedule so he could advance his education and his career in banking.
‘I knew that study would enhance my way of thinking and broaden the way I look at the world and the environment,’ he says. ‘The flexibility of studying online allowed me to continue to travel for international competitions and helped create a work environment that was both positive and productive.’
Matt says he found Swinburne’s virtual campus to be a satisfying place. ‘Swinburne designs its online courses as a complete experience. All the resources I needed to finish my degree were available online. I appreciated the convenience of this, because it made it easier to achieve my goals,’ he says.
He found company online too. Students can communicate with each other in an online learning space, which allows them to share information and connect as if they were on campus. ‘You got to know the other students pretty well,' he says. ‘Everyone had a different situation. Some were single parents. You could have a close bond with the people you were dealing with and I thrived in that environment.’
Matt felt like he wasn’t alone in balancing huge commitments with study. While he was balancing training for the Rio Paralympics in 2016, others also juggled busy lives.
This Games, while completely unlike any year before, will be drawing on the same skills he reinforced while studying – the ability to juggle, focus on what’s important and get through with as little stress as possible. Hopefully, he’ll be returning to Australia with another medal – or a few – around his neck.
Levy won gold in the Men's 4x100m Freestyle Relay - 34 points final, bronze in the Men’s 100m Breaststroke SB6 Final and placed fifth in the Men's 50m Freestyle -S7.