A Special Olympian who has spent years training in Beaver Valley and the Blue Mountains misses the thrill of competing.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood, we spoke with Matthew Fields, 31, Special Olympian.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Etobicoke.
Q: What brought you to South Georgian Bay?
I’ve skied at Beaver Valley for 18 years now. When I was young, my parents decided they wanted to have a place up north. They bought a chalet at the top of the hill in Beaver Valley. Later, we moved to Thornbury.
I started skiing when I was three or four years old. I’ve also done soccer, track and field, and swimming.
In 2009, I had decided to do something different, which started the idea of competing in skiing. I was still in high school, and I found out there was a Special Olympics team in Collingwood.
I was surprised how much I learned through my years of training.
Q: What is the nature of your disability?
A: In 2009-10, my mom and dad took me to California to a big hospital there. The doctors (here) couldn’t figure out what I had. They thought I might have a disease.
It was a bit of a journey. I went through a lot of tests.
It eventually became clear that I had fragile X syndrome.
It’s a genetic (intellectual disability). There are different symptoms but for me, it (affects) long- and short-term memory. There’s a lot of people who have it.
It doesn’t stop me from training, working or doing whatever I want to do. I just have to work through it. I’ve never had any trouble.
Q: Can you tell me about your career so far with Special Olympics?
A: My first provincial outing, I came back home with a silver medal. I was happy.
In 2014, the competitive side of me really began to kick in. I did a regional, provincial and a national. The national in 2016 was in Newfoundland. I won three golds.
After that, I went to the Worlds in Austria in 2017. It was the first time I’d done a competition that big.
I won gold for Canada.
I was jumping up and down. My parents were so happy. I was so happy. My coaches were so happy. That was the experience of a lifetime.
I was supposed to go to the Worlds again in March 2022 and it was supposed to be in Russia. We knew the U.S. was going to pull out, and Canada did, too, because of the situation between Russia and Ukraine.
We were devastated that this situation was occurring, but it was not acceptable to us as athletes. Special Olympics is all about inclusion and making friends.
Q: Do you have any other hobbies or interests you’d like to discuss?
A: I have a lot. If I’m not skiing, I’m probably doing other things for Special Olympics Canada. I’m part of two councils and volunteering.
I am a drummer and I play guitar. Since the pandemic started, I started writing songs. It keeps my mind off work. (laughs)
Q: What is your job?
A: I work at Deloitte. There’s an innovation centre there and a program for people with disabilities who want to work in hospitality. I’ve worked there since 2018. I’m a guest service agent.
It’s an incredible place to work and the people there are so kind.
Q: What are your future goals?
A: I could work in the hospitality business, but I really think I’d like to do more with sports and Special Olympics. I’d like to support the new athletes coming in. The pandemic has taught us a lot.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?
A: I love skiing up there.
Usually, I’ll be out in my blue and black jacket.
Also, if Collingwood needs a musician, sign me up.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who either are from or contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email email@example.com.