Wheelchair athlete Matt Hickling has become our latest Heart Research UK ambassador, helping to inspire disabled people to look after their hearts.
Matt, who is 23, was born with cerebral palsy which affects the movement of his arms and legs. He is confined to a wheelchair, but it hasn’t stopped him having a positive outlook on life that inspires others.
In 2011 he competed in the Junior World Championships and won a bronze medal in the 100 metres.
He’s been wheelchair racing since he was 13 and at one stage was number one in the UK in the T34 classification and was all set to compete for a place in the 2012 Paralympics. But an injury in May 2012 put paid to any selection hopes.
He regained his fitness and was just returning to competing when disaster struck again in 2013 when he shattered his left knee and damaged the right knee in an accident when playing wheelchair rugby.
The injury also put paid to his plans to go to college and train to be an IT technician – although he did finally get to study in 2015.
After a series of operations, and a sheer determination to bounce back, he has now returned to full training and aiming to get back to the levels he attained previously – with the Tokyo Paralympics in his sights.
He’s a member of the Leeds City Athletics Club based in South Leeds and has been with his coach, Paul Moseley, since he was 13.
Matt is very pragmatic about his situation. “I know there are a lot of people out there with worse disabilities than me,” he said. “If you don’t have something to aim for you have nothing. I know my disability won’t get better but hopefully I have as a person.”
He’s delighted to have become an ambassador for Heart Research UK where he has also been helping the charity with IT and administration. “I’m very honoured to become an ambassador as people with disabilities do have to look after their hearts,” he said.
“If I can show other people with a disability or health problem that you can still do things that you want to do then that will be great.”