Matt Gray, one of Leeds Trinity University’s aspiring sports stars, is gearing up for his biggest swimming challenges to date.
Having started swimming at the age of just four-years-old, the now 22-year-old has his sights set on making the finals at British Championships, to be hosted in Sheffield this April.
Success would secure him a place at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in August, taking place in Birmingham.
Training hard with the City of Leeds Swimming Club at the John Charles Centre for Sport, Matt is currently completing nine sessions in the pool a week, supplemented by four further visits to the gym to build strength.
The third-year Sports and Exercise Sciences student is set to compete in the 50m and 100m backstroke, and boasts times of 27.36 seconds and 58.81 seconds respectively.
Matt said: “It’s hard work but I cope with the training pretty well because I have been doing it for years – even at school I trained in the morning, went to school, and trained in the evening.
“When I get behind the block for a race it’s really enjoyable and the feeling you get if you have a good outcome is great. If I could get to the Commonwealth Games this year, that would be incredible. It’s what everybody dreams of, qualifying for a team and getting to represent your country.”
The last couple of years have not been all plain sailing for Matt, who originates from Spalding in Lincolnshire. Coronavirus lockdowns have meant swimming pool closures which led Matt to take up other challenges, such as a solo marathon.
In April 2020, he bought a small pool for his garden which allowed him to continue with specific elements of his training, whilst also turning to wild swimming as an option.
Leeds Trinity University is supporting Matt’s ambitions and in December awarded him £500 from its Inspiring Futures Sporting Excellence Fund.
The fund financially supports students to compete at a national or international level of sport and Matt is using the money towards his training fees, including pool access, and competition entry fees.
Matt added: “Leeds Trinity has been so helpful and flexible towards me to accommodate my training and support me through the Talented Athlete Package.”
Sarah Todd, Sports Development Manager at Leeds Trinity University, said: “Matt is an extremely hard working student and athlete, which is evident from both his academic studies and his results in the pool. Matt’s swimming is going from strength to strength and there is no one more deserving of this.
“Matt has shown resilience, determination and strength throughout the pandemic, staying engaged in his studies and his swimming, he is a shining example to his peers of how hard work does pay off.”
The Inspiring Futures Programme also financially supports students who want to study abroad as well as recent graduates who want to develop their own business.
For more information about the Inspiring Futures Programme, click here.