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Two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Matt Levy OAM goes the distance

Team AFT recently reached out to Matt Levy OAM as a Keynote Speaker for the AFT International Sports Fitness Festival. Here’s a little bit about what we discovered about him.

The Individual

Levy was born fifteen weeks early, which resulted in him being born with cerebral palsy and retinal damage. He is legally blind.

As a young boy, Levy studied at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral School then went on to complete a Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University of Technology in 2015 and furthering his studies, took on the Master of Business Administration at the University of Canberra in 2021. He works at Westpac Bank and serves on the board of directors of Ability Options, a disability organisation in New South Wales, Australia.

He has published three books:

  1. Going the distance: Identify and create your own lane to success (2023)
  2. Brandon Dreams Big – 7 easy steps to get to where you want! (2021)
  3. Keeping Your Head Above Water: Inspirational Insights from a Champion (2020)

Competitiveness in the pool

In brief, Levy has competed in five Paralympic Games from 2004 to 2020. During that time, he picked up three gold, one silver and six bronze medals (Wikipedia).

Levy’s swimming classification is categorised by World Para Swimming as S7. He made his Australian debut in 2003 and set a world record for the 200-metre freestyle short course. The following year in the Athens Games 2004, he participated but was not awarded any medals. He participated in the 2006 IPC Swimming World Championships. Then came the 2007 Telstra Short Course Championships where he clinched four silver and four bronze medals. He took home the gold in the 4×100 m medley relay (34 points) at the 2008 Beijing Games. He took home two silvers in the 100 m breaststroke and 100 m freestyle races, two bronzes in the 50 m butterfly and 200 m freestyle, and a gold in the 4×100 m freestyle relay at the 2010 IPC Swimming World Championships.

The pandemic was a major cause of disruption to Team Australia’s preparations for the Paralympics. While preparations began shortly following the Rio Games in 2016, the most intense period of preparations began in 2019. Due to a series of lockdowns, Sydney-based Matt was forced to relocate to Queensland for training.

Reviewing interviews with Matt, we learned that it was hard to stay competitive training in Australia and having to watch the times of other champion swimmers from other countries. Levy told press that during the pandemic, he and his fellow swimmers didn’t know how their competitors were doing, so it was a matter of concentrating on their own race and modifying their training by relocating to Queensland in order to avoid lockdowns. It strengthened their resilience and adaptability to change. After Rio 2016, the physical preparation continued on. It took five years of six days a week, four hours per day, staying on top of the body’s recuperation and wellness, and understanding when to relax and when to press forward.

One thing to note of Australian athletes, they are not paid to be athletes unlike some countries. Levy, like other athletes, had to train on top of a full-time job. He worked at Westpac as a Change Analyst in the project management team. Matt is also a Right Hear Brand Ambassador and a member of several advisory boards, including World Para Swimming’s Athlete Advisory Group. Matt is highly committed to his advocacy for sport inclusion and believes there is still much more to be done to educate the public that not all disabilities are visible.

Matt Levy OAM will be helming the Keynote Sports Talk at AFT International Sports Fitness Festival in Port Macquarie, NSW in Australia on November 4, 2023. The talk will be live-streamed via the @AFT-TV YouTube Channel.

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