Tom Matthews

Date and place of birth: 19/08/1992, Merthyr Tydfil
Home town: Aberdare
Lives: Cwmbach
Family: Mum Mandy, dad David
TT Class: 1
Current world ranking: 6
International debut: 2013, Hungarian Open
Major titles: European team champion 2015

In brief:

Former mountain biker Tom won his first major medals at the European Championships in 2015, taking bronze in the men’s class 1 singles and gold in the team event. Having missed out on qualification for Rio due to a broken leg he returned to win the US Open and went on to take silver in the 2017 European Championships – losing to fellow Welshman Rob Davies in the final – and bronze in the World Championships in 2018. He made his Paralympic debut in Tokyo, winning a bronze medal in the men’s class 1 singles.

Tom’s story:

Tom was a promising mountain biker when he had a fall while out riding with his uncle and a friend in March 2009, which left him wheelchair bound at the age of 16. “I was racing down a mountain and I went over the handlebars and broke my neck,” he recalls. “I’ve always been competitive and also played rugby and football before my accident. I was looking to become a professional mountain biker but then my accident changed all that.”

While undergoing rehab in Rookwood Hospital he was encouraged to try table tennis by Jim Munkley from Disability Sport Wales. “I wasn’t very keen initially,” says Tom, “as part of me was still thinking that I might go back to what I was doing before my accident. But Jim and GB international Sara Head kept encouraging me to give table tennis a go and the first time I played they couldn’t get me off the table. I just fell in love with it. I remember my Chinese takeaway came while I was playing and I let it go cold which I never used to in those days. Jim told me that you can travel with sport and he taught me everything I know. Independence-wise he showed me ways of doing things that someone who is not in a wheelchair couldn’t teach you so that really helped in my journey as well.”

Although he initially trained with the Welsh squad after leaving hospital Matthews then turned his back on the sport, a decision that he still feels was right for him.

“My mind wasn’t 100% on sport - it was more like an activity to do at that time,” he explained. “Having my accident at the age of 16 it became important to get back to normality. So I started going out with the boys and started drinking quite heavily to be honest. I just carried on doing that for about two years – going out as much as I could and just getting back into society. Then towards the end of 2012 I rang Jim up and said ‘could I give it another shot’ and he was more than willing to have me back. He could see some potential in me and I ended up going back and getting classified in 2013 and it’s been a mad rollercoaster from there really.”

Tom made his international debut at the Hungarian Open that month and in October was asked to join the GB Pathway Squad. In December he was part of the GB squad in the US Open in San Diego and he exceeded all expectations by taking silver in the class 1 men’s singles and a bronze in the class 1-2 men’s teams.

In 2014 Tom picked up team medals in Slovenia and Romania and began 2015 with a bronze in the singles in Hungary. He made steady progress through the year, replacing the injured Paul Davies as Rob Davies’s team partner and taking team medals in Italy (with Endre Major from Hungary), Slovenia, Slovakia and Germany. A win over the Italian World number six Andrea Borgato in Italy proved that he could compete with the best in the world and he showed his improvement again in Germany, taking bronze in the singles and gold in the team with Rob Davies, beating the very experienced Silvio Keller 3-0 in the final singles match to secure the gold medal for his team.

He was selected to compete for GB in the European Championships in Denmark - his first major championship - and he played superbly to take bronze in the men’s class 1 singles and then partner Rob Davies to gold in the men’s class 1 team event.

Having made a breakthrough in the European Championships Tom consolidated that performance with two silver medals in the Copa Costa Rica in December. He reached the final of the singles but was forced to retire with heat exhaustion against the World number five Young Dae Joo with the Korean leading 2-1. However, in the team event he faced Joo again and came back from 2-1 down to beat him 11-9 in the fifth and then followed that with a 3-2 win over World number seven Jae-Kwan Cho.

Tom began 2016 by taking bronze in the men’s class 1 singles in Italy but a broken leg in April put him out of action for most of the year. However, he returned better than ever in the US Open in December to take gold in the singles, coming from 2-0 down in the final to beat the Korean World number five KiWon Nam 11-9 in the fifth.

In February 2017 Tom moved from the GB Pathway Squad to the Performance Squad and partnered fellow Welshman Paul Davies to win bronze in the World Team Championships in Slovakia. In October he was part of an historic one-two-three for GB in the men’s class 1 singles, losing to Paralympic champion Rob Davies in the final after showing great character and fight to come back from 2-1 down to beat the Italian Federico Falco in the semi-final.

Tom started 2018 by winning gold in the Italian Open and he finished the season by taking bronze in his first World Championships, losing in the semi-finals to World number one Young Dae Joo from Korea.  He was hampered by a shoulder injury in 2019 and struggled to find his best form, losing in the quarter-finals at the European Championships to the Russian Dmitry Lavrov.

The postponement of the Paralympic Games in 2020 gave Tom the opportunity to regain full fitness and he played superbly in Tokyo, beating the World number three Ki-won Nam from Korea, Lavrov and former World and European medallist Andrea Borgato from Italy on his way to securing a bronze medal in the men’s class 1 singles on his Paralympic debut.

“It’s my first Games so I’ve got to be proud of coming home with a medal,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d do that. It’s been a massive experience - the team has been amazing and I’ve been so proud to be part of ParalympicsGB. This has given me massive motivation. I can’t wait to get back to training. I’ll have a bit of time off now, have a bit of a break to reflect and come back stronger.”

Take 5 with Tom:

Most admired sportsman - Shane Williams

Place in the world you would most like to visit - Australia

Three words that describe you best - determined, friendly, positive

What’s on your ipod - Hip hop, R&B and dance are the main music genres I listen to

If you had to appear in a reality TV programme which one would it be – I’m A Celebrity

and finally - Thomas’s interests include driving, football/rugby, mountain biking, technology and the gym

2021 Results:

Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

2020 Results:

Costa Brava Spanish Open – group stages, men’s singles (class 1); group stages, men’s teams (class 1-2)

Polish Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

2019 Results:

Dutch Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 1)                                                                            

European Championships, Sweden – QF, men’s singles (class 1)

Czech Open – QF, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenia Open – L16, men’s singles (class 1); group stages, men’s teams (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – QF, men’s singles (class 1); group stages, men’s teams (class 1)

2018 Results:

World Championships, Slovenia – bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenian Open – silver, men’s teams (class 1); QF, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – gold, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

2017 Results:

European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – silver, men’s singles (class 1)

Bayreuth Open, Germany – gold, men’s teams (class 1); group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

World Team Championships, Slovakia – bronze, men’s class 1

Slovenia Open – silver, men’s teams (class 1); group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – bronze, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

2016 Results:

US Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, men’s singles (men’s class 1); runner-up, men’s teams (class 1)

2015 Results:

Copa Costa Rica - silver, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - gold, men’s teams (class 1); bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Korea Open - 3rd, men’s singles RR (class 1); 2nd, men’s teams RR (class 1-2)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - gold, men’s teams (class 1); bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovakia Open - bronze, men’s teams (class 1); group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovenia Open - bronze, men’s teams (class 1); group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s teams (class 1); QF men’s singles (class 1)

Hungarian Open - bronze, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

2014 Results:

Cote d’Azur International, France - group stages, men’s singles (class 1); 4th men’s teams RR (class 1)

Spanish Open - group stages, men’s singles (class 1-2); 5th men’s teams RR (class 1-2)

Romania Open - bronze, men’s teams (class 1-2); group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

Slovakia Open - group stages, men’s singles (class 1); group stages, men’s teams (class 1)

Slovenia Open - bronze, men’s teams (class 1); group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - group stages, men’s singles (class 1)

National Championships - winner, men’s singles (class 1-2)

Career Highlights:

2021      Paralympic Games, Tokyo – bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

2018:    World Championships, Slovenia – bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy – gold, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

2017:    European Championships, Lasko, Slovenia – silver, men’s singles (class 1)

Bayreuth Open, Germany – gold, men’s teams (class 1)

World Team Championships, Slovakia – bronze, men’s class 1

2016:    US Open - gold, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - bronze, men’s singles (men’s class 1)

2015:    Copa Costa Rica - silver, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

European Championships, Vejle, Denmark - gold, men’s teams (class 1); bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Bayreuth Open, Germany - gold, men’s teams (class 1); bronze, men’s singles (class 1)

Lignano Master Open, Italy - silver, men’s teams (class 1)

Hungarian Open - bronze, men’s singles (class 1); silver, men’s teams (class 1)

2013:    US Open, San Diego - silver, men’s singles (class 1); bronze, men’s teams (class 1-2)