Rising swimming star Matt Wilson was named Blue Mountains Sportsperson of the Year on Australia Day.
But the 17-year-old from Springwood hopes the honour will be just one of many highlights in 2016.
“Making this year's Rio Olympics would be a dream goal,” the champion breaststroker told the Gazette. “I have always been focused on the Commonwealth Games in 2018 but with continued hard work, you never know. I'll certainly give it a shot at trials in April.”
The Winmalee High School student is in Newcastle for a training camp this week so was unable to attend the ceremony in Springwood on Tuesday. He competed in the Victorian Open Championships from January 22-24 and will fly to Western Australia for the Perth Aquatic Super Series against Japan and China at the start of February.
The hectic start to the year follows a breakthrough 2015 which culminated in Wilson being named NSW Institute of Sport’s Junior Athlete of the Year in November.
He won a gold medal in men’s 200m breaststroke at the Australian Short Course Swimming Championships in December, recording a new personal best and becoming the fourth fastest Australian of all time for that event.
Wilson also won a silver medal at the world junior championships in Singapore last August.
Despite his success on the national stage, Wilson said he was “very humbled and extremely honoured” to be recognised by the Blue Mountains.
“My local community has always supported my swimming journey and I am very grateful for that support,”he said.
“It is always nice to know that you have people behind you believing in you.”
With a backyard pool at his Springwood home, Wilson learnt to swim so his parents felt confident about his safety. He started lessons at Penrith until the current Springwood Aquatic Centre was built.
“I joined Springwood Swimming Club just to have some fun at club nights with my friends from school at first and then realised that I really loved the sport,” he said.
“I didn't start squad until I was eight and started competing at age nine. I trained at this pool for most of my time under coach Paul Dobson and only had the 25m pool to train in for a long time.”
Wilson also swam at Lawson and Glenbrook pools to gain long course (50m) training.
“I am now spoilt because I train indoors at Sydney Olympic Park and don't have to negotiate blazing sun, rain, hail or snow which often occurred all in one week!” he said.
He credits his hard work in training with coach Adam Kable for his recent rise in the sport.
“I've also learned a lot about how to race, focusing on my own race plan and building into the race. We set goals each season to aim for and re-set them once they've been achieved,” he said.