LOWER HARMONY – It’s a good thing Matthew Hunter spends so much time at the gym. He’s putting all the muscles to good use these days, carrying around his latest haul of medals.
Hunter, a 26-year-old athlete, returned home from British Columbia on Sunday night with a bit of extra weight in his suitcase from his eight Special Olympics Canada Games medals.
Hunter finished with gold medals in the 100-metre butterfly and 200m individual medley, and silver medals in the 200m butterfly and 400m freestyle. He was also a part of Nova Scotia’s relay team that took home four medals.
“We’re really proud of him,” said Maura Hunter, Matthew’s mother. “We really didn’t know how things would turn out, but they really couldn’t have turned out better.”
The uncertainty stemmed from post-tropical storm Arthur, which wreaked havoc on Team Nova Scotia’s flight schedule.
“The storm delayed us really bad,” said Matthew. “We didn’t have much time.”
After landing in B.C., it was go-go-go for the parents and athletes.
“We didn’t have any time to get over the jetlag,” Maura said. “We had to be at the pool at 7:30 a.m., and we didn’t leave until 7:30 p.m.”
The change in time zones didn’t affect Matthew, however. His first day in the pool, he smashed the 200-metre individual medley to capture his first gold, and narrowly missed first place in the 200-metre butterfly.
As the week continued, Matthew kept adding to Nova Scotia’s medal count – and to his own impressive lifetime tally.
Swimming has taken Matthew around the world, with visits to Italy and Greece, as well as two national games. In a family full of distinguished athletes, Matthew’s success serves as an inspiration for the others.
“We’re pretty relaxed with rules around the house,” Maura said. “But all my kids grew up with one rule – you’ll do one athletic thing and one musical thing until you show us it’s no longer worth the time and money.”
While his siblings chose soccer as their thing, Matthew found his stride with swimming. After swimming with the local Special Olympics crew, Matthew found it just wasn’t enough. He began swimming with the Centurions team two nights a week, but that too wasn’t enough. Now Matthew has a tight schedule, balancing nights in the pool with days in the gym or at work.
The intensity of Matthew’s passion for competition began making positive impacts on the rest of his world, Maura said.
“It helped him so much with discipline and work ethic. He began to learn how important it was to eat right, to sleep right and to be all around healthy.”
His health would turn out to be a huge benefit. Having undergone four heart surgeries – two as a child and two as a grownup – Matthew kept bouncing back stronger than ever.
“It was really amazing,” Maura said. “He’d have his surgery and then be right back in the pool again, ready to go. His health is just incredible.”
Raising five accomplished athletes as children, there are plenty of medals and trophies in the Hunter house. But the parents made sure their kids were raised to want more than just trophies.
“We’re all really proud of the kids and all they’ve done,” Maura said. “But with all my kids, it’s really the things they contribute to the community that count more than the medals and accomplishments themselves. To be a good citizen and a good person, that’s the most important thing.”