In just a couple of weeks, the spotlight in Tokyo will shift to the best parathletes in the world as the 2020 Paralympic Games kick off. One of those athletes is Matthew Torres, a 20-year-old Fairfield University student from Ansonia.
“I did get started with swimming back in 2008 after watching Michael Phelps at the Olympic games,” said Torres when asked how he found his love for swimming. “Breaking all those records and getting medals left and right.”
Michael Phelps inspired a lot of future swimmers that year, but few like Torres.
He was born missing half his right leg, has deformities on both hands and has moderate hearing loss. But he nor his parents let that stand in the way of getting him in the water.
“I basically told them that I wanted to be like Michael and they just said 'OK,'” said Torres.
Torres is the only son of Columbian immigrants. Their support has helped him take his swimming from the high school team at Fairfield Prep to the college team at Fairfield University.
“My parents are definitely one of the first I call,” said Torres. “Sometimes it’s not even about delivering the news because they already know but just being able to celebrate and enjoy the moment with them.”
Enjoy a moment like making the United States Paralympic team. He even set a new American record in the 400 free at the trials in June.
While the Covid-19 pandemic limited so many of us, it opened up an opportunity for Torres. The switch to online schooling allowed him to take his sophomore year at Fairfield on the road to Colorado Springs.
“It’s what needed to be done in order to get to where I am today,” Torres said. “Now I'm working with some of the best teammates I could ask for.
That's not to say he isn't still looking forward to being back with his college teammates in Connecticut soon.
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“I'm excited,” said Torres. “I'm ready to represent the Stags again but obviously first things first, got to take care of business in Tokyo.
Torres will swim the 400 meter free. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics run from August 24 through September 5.