My passion for canoe slalom first started on a school residential trip when I was 10 years old.  Kayaking was one of the activities we tried and started a lifelong passion.  On my return I got involved with my local club and was soon competing in canoe slalom, gaining promotion through the divisions to the Premier Division, the top level of competition.  I was Irish Masters Champion in 2011, paddling for Ireland 2011-2013, British Youth Champion in 1990, British Schools Junior Team Champion in 1997, Southern Region Junior Champion, Eastern Region Senior Champion and represented Great Britain in both the Under 16 and Senior Teams, as well as the England Junior and Senior Teams.


My dream was to compete at the Olympics.  These were held in Sydney in 2000 at the course in Penrith.  I didn't make selection but I was able to take part as a volunteer supporting the event which was an experience I will never forget and I was featured on BBC See Hear. 


My life took me over to Northern Ireland and I returned to competitive racing in 2010 after a ten year break.  I was crowned the Irish Masters Champion 2011 in Dublin, being selected for the Irish Team 2011-2013.


In 2012 the Olympics were hosted in London and the Canoe Slalom competitions took place at Lee Valley Whitewater Centre.  I was in with a slim chance to be picked to represent Ireland but I had been unable to put in the training required in the two years leading up to this to be in real contention.  I didn't make the team, but I did get to paddle on the Olympic Course after the event, which was an amazing experience. As well as this, I was so proud to be selected as an Olympic torch bearer in the build-up to the Games, and carried the torch in Belfast with my family and friends sharing this once in a lifetime experience.  Remark! were interested in my story and made a film about my Olympic dream.


I am the only profoundly Deaf competitor in mainstream Canoe Slalom in the world (there isn't a separate 'deaf' division) and my aim is to inspire and encourage other deaf people to take part in this life enriching sport and to be the best they can be.


In 2014 I was unwell and diagnosed with a benign brain tumour.  I underwent emergency surgery and spent many months recovering. 

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© 2018 Matthew Sykes | Legend In Canoe Slalom