Matt targets Games glory

INSPIRATIONAL teenager Matt Baker is today one step closer to his Paralympic dream.

Josh Warwick

INSPIRATIONAL teenager Matt Baker is today one step closer to his Paralympic dream.

The determined 16-year-old has his sights set firmly on representing his country when the Games come to the capital in four years' time after his obvious talent for archery was spotted by expert coaches.

His ability has earned him a call-up to Great Britain's development squad, where the brightest young medal hopes will have their skills honed and nurtured in the run-up to London 2012.

Matt, who has cerebral palsy, has enjoyed a meteoric rise, having only taken up the sport three years ago.

Today the popular Copleston student told of his burning Paralympic ambition.

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“To compete in 2012 would be amazing, a dream come true,” he said.

“I never thought I would be in this position when I started so it's a wonderful surprise to be in the development squad.”

Matt's expertise with a bow and arrow was already known to Team GB, but he excelled at a recent tournament when he competed with a number of Chinese, American and English archers who will be representing their countries in this summer's Beijing Games.

Matt said: “I was invited to a competition at Stoke Mandeville and it was there that it was announced I was moving into the development squad.

“I had competed with a number of the athletes going to Beijing, which was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but a brilliant experience.

“It was a real privilege competing with those who are going to China.

“Afterwards, to discover I had made the full squad, was such an amazing feeling.”

In September, Matt will begin studying A levels in physics, double maths and IT, while at the same time combining a demanding training programme.

“My aim is to practice all the time, shooting around 200 arrows a day, which will take about two hours.

“It will be a bit of a battle when I start sixth form between school work and archery but hopefully I can fit both in.”

Matt's dad Rob paid tribute to his son's efforts.

He said: “It was a surprise when he got into the squad but it's what he was waiting for.

“The only thing he's disappointed about is that he has not had his GB tracksuit through yet!

“He deserves it - he has worked hard for this.”

Matt, who is planning to go to university after completing his A levels at Copleston, is a member of the Gipping Valley Archers.

Copleston deputy headteacher David East said: “Matthew is such a determined character. No matter what he is doing, he wants to excel at it.”

Matt thanked his friends, BT Open Reach, who paid for his bow, David Hilton, who provided Matt with the opportunity of getting into the squad, and Chickers Archery in Norwich.

Matt is looking for sponsors to help him buy a second bow - essential if he is to progress as an archer. If you or your company would like to make a donation contact Copleston High School on 01473 710951.

Have you got a story of triumph over adversity? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Fast Facts: Paralympics

The Paralympic Games originated at Stoke Mandeville hospital, in Aylesbury, and were conceived by Dr Ludwig Guttmann, who originally planned them as part of a rehabilitation programme for people with spinal injuries and to help young disabled war veterans find activity and gain self-esteem.

The first games to include athletes with Cerebral Palsy came in 1984. They were shared between New York and Stoke Mandeville.

In the word 'Paralympics', 'para' stands for parallel.

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