Olympic stage a big learning curve
He’s been dubbed “the Matamata Mantaray”, “the Silent Assassin” and “Aquaman’’, and following his London Olympic campaign Matt Stanley is now looking forward to the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the chance to win gold for New Zealand.
Visiting the Rotary Club of Matamata last week on his return from the London Olympics, Matt was interviewed by his grandfather, Don Stanley, himself a Life Member of Swimming New Zealand.
By his own admission, Matt was disappointed with his performances at the Olympics but he said he had taken plenty of lessons from the event.
“I learnt a lot about myself and my weaknesses,” he said. “For me it is about being more confident in myself and my abilities – I have to be able to block everything out and be in the zone.”
Matt, aged 20, said he had not felt nervous at the Olympics when walking out to compete but he felt that his lack of experience at the top level had counted against him.
“There were so many distractions with the likes of the crowd and media but you need to put blinkers on and think about yourself and your race.
“When I stood on the blocks for the first race, there was a Great Britain swimmer next to me and the crowd went ballistic and you could not hear anything – it was like been in a night club standing right next to the speakers.”
In earning the right to compete at the Olympics, Matt had broken the New Zealand record in both the 200m and 400m freestyle (formerly held by double Olympic gold medallist Danyon Loader).
“That had been a long time coming,” Matt told Rotarians. “It was a goal since I was 13 . . . it has been years in the making and it is one of the proudest moments in my life.”
Matt has trained under Matamata swim coach Graeme Laing (the son of Loader’s coach, Duncan) for seven years, and although he now lives and studies in Auckland as part of Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance Squad, he still remembers the grounding from his hometown.
“I was lucky enough to have a club here in Matamata that a lot of towns this size don’t have and a coach like Graeme Laing. He has a huge amount of knowledge and that is how good athletes are produced – the coaching and the facilities.”
As part of the national squad, Matt has a gruelling training schedule. Monday to Friday consists of about 14 kilometres in the pool – up to four hours – and a 90-minute gym session. Saturday morning is also taken up with training.
That dedication allowed Matt to break Loader’s records and finish a creditable 15th in the 200m freestyle in London.
Matt has set his goals on winning a medal – “hopefully a very shiny one” – at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, with the long-term aim being to make the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“Swimming is becoming so competitive now with the Phelps’, Lochtes’ and Thorpes’ pushing the boundaries, getting the coverage and bring more and more people into the sport,” Matt said.
How does Matt think he can get faster and improve? He said it was about building strength and endurance physically and mentally and setting goals.
“It is about working out what your dreams are and stepping backward from there to see what it is going to take to achieve them.”
He's home: Don and Matt Stanley have a casual chat at the Rotary Club of Matamata meeting last week.