Toronto’s Matthew Fields feels like he can take on any challenge since joining Special Olympics 15 years ago.
Matthew plays soccer, golf and excels at alpine skiing. He’s brought home three gold medals from the Special Olympics Canada 2016 Winter Games and another gold in the slalom event from the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.
“I like that you get to have the confidence to compete,” Matthew said. “It’s special. I’m really glad that I’ve joined and it boosted up my confidence.”
Matthew has Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic condition that causes various degrees of intellectual disability. Growing up, he struggled not only academically, but socially as well.
“You could always get help for academic things,” his mother Judy said. “But for social activities outside of school, those were difficult.”
Matthew discovered Special Olympics when he was 13. He started playing soccer with the Etobicoke Sidekicks, then joined the Blue Mountain Special Olympics Ski Team.
He made “tons of friends” and became a Special Olympics ambassador, which involves speaking at events and sharing his story.
“Special Olympics gave him the opportunity to play and show some leadership on the teams,” said Judy. “He’s become a motivator for other athletes on the team. As much as Matt likes to win, he likes the team to win.”
Matthew has also found success outside of Special Olympics as an accomplished drummer.
He started drumming when he was 10-years-old. More than a decade later, he continues with weekly lessons and practices at least two hours each day (on top of his Special Olympics training schedule).
He’s taken lessons from famous musicians, including the drummers in Santana, Dream Theatre and John Mellencamp, performed live in concert and recorded background tracks for various classic rock bands.
His latest challenge? Debuting his very own “epic drum solo” on national radio. Listen below:
Matthew is just one of many success stories at Special Olympics Canada.
Individuals with intellectual disabilities face challenges, both big and small, every day of their lives – challenges most will never encounter.
Special Olympics helps build confidence to take on these challenges in sport – and in life, empowering Canadians with intellectual disabilities to live their full potential.
No matter the feat, Matthew – like all 45,000 Special Olympics athletes – has the same fearless response: Challenge Accepted.