Bob Matthews aims for eighth Paralympic Games

Bob Matthews
Matthews has won 15 gold medals in the European Championships

Bob Matthews has competed at seven Paralympic Games for Great Britain and now is aiming for number eight, but with New Zealand.

The MBE's medal tally at the Paralympics stands at 13, including eight golds in athletics - now Matthews has changed sports to cycling.

Matthews told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire: "I love challenging myself and I expect excellence.

"I want to compete in front of my son Thomas and show him what Daddy can do."

Bob began to lose his sight in his early teens and, by the age of 18, had virtually no sight.

After spending his formative years in his native Kent, Bob moved to Leamington in 1993, initially to work for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

From a base in Lillington, he trained for two Paralympic Games and has very happy memories of hours spent running in the Warwickshire countryside around Bishop's Itchington.

His contribution to the sporting life of the county was acknowledged when the Bob Matthews MBE Fitness Suite was opened at the Ryton Police Training Centre.

Bob's Warwickshire life was touched by tragedy though, when his first wife Kath died suddenly in 2003.

"Losing my sight was a cakewalk in comparison," he reflects. "Losing Kath was by far the hardest thing I've had to deal with.

"For a time I wondered how I was going to come through it, whether I could come through it, whether I even wanted to."

Gradually, Bob found the strength to compete again and the following year, Bob dedicated his performances at the Athens Paralympics to his late wife.

It seemed that Athens would be his last major competition. At the age of 43, he was no longer winning gold medals and three years ago, he announced his retirement from competitive athletics.

You write off a sportsman like Bob Matthews at your peril though. His athletics career might be over but this remarkable sportsman is now an international cyclist.

Not only will the sport be different though as Bob now cycles for New Zealand. Five years ago, he met Sarah while on holiday in Auckland.

Within a few months he had emigrated to New Zealand and now lives in Auckland with Sarah and two children, four-year-old Thomas and baby Molly Chelsea.

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