Young Achiever | Matt Ward continues to push hard in the pool

Persistence pays off for those who work hard and long enough – that’s what Matthew Ward found out over the last 12 months.

It’s not as though this was a new revelation for the 22-year-old however – he’s spent countless hours tracking the black line on the bottom of the pool.

It would be fair to say though, that early in 2017 things weren’t going to plan.

Of the two major meets Ward had set his sights on, the first, the Australian Long Course Championships nearly 12 months ago, yielded poor results.

After missing the finals in his favoured events, something had to change for the aspiring Paralympian.

In came new coach Brad Harris, who coached Paralympic breaststroker Ahmed Kelly for London 2012 and Rio 2016.

In good time, things started to turn around.

Harris’ experience in Ward’s stroke of choice was a massive bonus, and the early results were positive.

Ward began to notice the improvements at a few local meets in Bendigo and Ballarat, even unofficially breaking the short course 50 metre breaststroke record at one point.

His results in October were good enough to move him into the top 10 in the world, his 31.6 second effort at the Paralympic Grand Prix at the Gold Coast marking the first time he’d cracked the 32-second barrier.

That performance opened up eligibility for the Para Pan Pacific Games later this year. 

He saved the best for last though, claiming two medals and officially breaking the record at the national short course championships late last year.

“I didn’t swim as well as I would have liked at the long-course nationals,” Ward said.

“We had a new coach come in over June and July, there was a bit of a shake-up.

“Brad has a good idea about disability coaching, and it was a good change.” 

That change didn’t take long to take effect, Ward said.

“I broke the record in Ballarat, although it was unofficial,” he said.

“It was a good indicator of how I was tracking heading into the shortcourse nationals.

“I went really well there, I hit two personal bests in three races, won medals in both the finals I made and broke the Australian record.”

While some say a change is as good as a holiday, Ward said it was the strong support system he had around him that had enabled him to shake off the slow start to the year most of all.

“I’ve got a great group of people around me,” he said.

“Brad has been really supportive, my university has been really helpful, and obviously my mum and dad do a lot for me as well, as they always have.

“Change has to happen as part of the journey.”