Powerlifter, Coach, Motivational Speaker, Para lifting Powerhouse.
Matt Gordon is your regular kiwi bloke. He has always been involved in sport, it’s hard not to when your mum owned a gym! He has been heavily involved with a number of sports in the Waikato especially cricket, squash and golf. But Matt has one big difference to the rest of us. Hiding behind his ever present grin, is a mental strength, fortitude and resilience that none of us may ever know.
On 20 June 2010, Matt went to work like every other day, not knowing that this was a day that would change his life forever.
Matt worked as an engineer and suffered from a workplace accident most of us would never recover from – physically or mentally. On this day Matt had 8 half round haybarn doors fall on him, folding him in half under the 500kg weight, breaking his back and his ankle.
Matt doesn’t recall much of the accident. What he does recall is after the doors being lifted off him, having no feeling in his legs. Matt had shattered his T12 vertebrae with the doctor likening it to a can of sardines having been hit with a sledge hammer. Matt was told he would never walk again.
Matt was moved to the spinal unit in Otara for his rehabilitation where he quickly saw that if you had no purpose you would never get out of there. He saw people make one of two decisions – you either give up or you fight.
It was during this time in the spinal unit that he met Tina Ball, the Head Coach of New Zealand Weightlifting. She inspired Matt to realise he could still participate in sports in a variety of ways. This saw him train as a personal trainer while he was in the spinal unit and from this Matt made the decision to start powerlifting. Matt had made the decision to fight!
Not wanting to draw attention to his injury, Matt began competing against able bodied athletes for 4 years, placing 2nd at Asia/Oceania Championships, winning the New Zealand National Bench title in 2017 and coming 2nd in South Africa at the Commonwealth Championships.
However, with the goal of attending the 2020 Olympics, the last 2 years has seen Matt narrow his focus to compete in Para Powerlifting events to refine a technique different to that of able-bodied lifting. Matt has since represented New Zealand in the Australian Paralympic Nationals, placing 3nd overall in 2017 and 2nd overall in 2019. Additionally, Matt was selected to represented New Zealand and was placed on the “Pathway to the Olympics” program. This means he has four mandatory events to attend. Mexico and Japan (already done), Kazakhstan in July of 2019 and Dubai early 2020.
Matt’s aim to represent New Zealand in the Japan 2020 Olympics, in the para powerlifting bench press event, is well on track. Ranked as New Zealand’s number 1 and 12th in the world in this event, Matt’s is looking to peak for his next competition in Kazakhstan in July. In order to qualify for a direct invite to the Olympics, Matt needs to be in the top 10 worldwide which requires him to set a new PR and bench press 170kg. Currently sitting at an easy 160kg for 2 at his last training session (equalling his current PR), this is well within his reach.
Whilst training is Matt’s main focus, he enjoys sharing his love of powerlifting with anyone who will listen. He works as a meet director and Para Powerlifting Ambassador for World Powerlifting in the Waikato. He also supports and trains several up and coming powerlifters throughout New Zealand, including a group of Special Olympic Powerlifters that he donates his time and expertise to.
Matt is seen as an inspiration to many athletes from all sports and is now doing some motivational speaking. But what is most inspiring is that Matt refused to listen when they told him he would never walk again…. and he proved himself right!