A Special Olympian who has spent years training in Beaver Valley and the Blue Mountains misses the thrill of competition.
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 been skiing in Beaver Valley for 18 years now. When I was young, my parents decided they wanted to have a place up north. They bought a cabin 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 also did soccer, athletics and swimming.
In 2009, I decided to do something different, which sparked the idea of ski racing. I was still in high school and found out there was a Special Olympics team in Collingwood.
I was surprised at how much I learned during my formative years.
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 trip. I passed a lot of tests.
It finally became clear that I had fragile X syndrome.
It is a genetic disease (intellectual disability). There are different symptoms but for me it (affects) long and short term memory. There are many people who have it.
It doesn’t stop me from training, working or doing whatever I want to do. I just have to work on it. I have never had a problem.
Q: Can you tell me about your career so far with Special Olympics?
A: My first provincial outing, I came home with a silver medal. I was happy.
In 2014, my competitive side really started to take hold. I did a regional, a provincial and a national. National in 2016 was in Newfoundland. I won three gold medals.
After that, I went to the Worlds in Austria in 2017. It was the first time I had done such an important competition.
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. It was the experience of a lifetime.
I was supposed to go back to Worlds in March 2022 and it was supposed to be in Russia. We knew that the United States was going to withdraw, and Canada too, because of the situation between Russia and Ukraine.
We were devastated that this happened, but it was not acceptable for us as athletes. Special Olympics is about inclusion and making friends.
Q: Do you have any other hobbies or interests you would like to discuss?
A: I have a lot. If I’m not skiing, I’m probably doing other things for Special Olympics Canada. I serve on two councils and I volunteer.
I’m a drummer and I play guitar. Since the start of the pandemic, I started writing songs. It keeps me from thinking about work. (Laughs)
Q: What is your job?
A: I work at Deloitte. There is an innovation center there and a program for people with disabilities who want to work in the hotel industry. I have been working there since 2018. I am a customer service agent.
It’s an amazing place to work and the people there are so nice.
Q: What are your future goals?
A: I could work in hospitality, but I really think I would like to do more with sports and Special Olympics. I would like to support the new athletes who arrive. The pandemic has taught us a lot.
Q: Is there anything else you would like the people of Collingwood to know about you?
A: I love skiing there.
Usually, I’ll be outside in my blue and black jacket.
Also, if Collingwood needs a musician, sign me up.
For our People of Collingwood feature, we’ll speak with interesting people who are part of, or contribute to, the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will work on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you would like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].