By Aliki Kraterou and Federico Cornetto
A teenager who is UK’s top one armed rock climber said he won’t let his disability hold him back from tackling even the trickiest of mountains.
Matthew Philips, 18, was born missing with his right arm missing below the elbow but that hasn’t stopped him in competing in climbing at a national and international level and winning gold and silver medals.
Matthew – who started climbing just four years ago – is one of the youngest members of the GB Paraclimbing Team and is determined to compete in a future Paralympics.
Matthew has a very special, dynamic style, jumping from hold to hold.
There is no medical reason for his limb difference but Matthew says he has never felt limited.
The teenager, from Guilford, Surrey, said: “I have always been pretty sporty – I guess I was always just trying to find my sport, and I managed to find it.
“When I was younger, I always liked climbing on trees or up walls so it makes sense now.
“I think what I like the most about climbing, is the challenge, being able to do this.
“It makes me feel like I can do anything and I’m glad I didn’t let it go.
“There is also the problem-solving aspect – I have to think outside the box.
“There are always things I can’t do but it’s not about focusing on what you can’t do – the trick is finding the alternative, the next best thing or something similar.
“People are surprised – when they see me they’re usually shocked, they ask me ‘how did you do that?’ and cheer.
“I have never been bullied, while there have been the occasional comments, especially from children, it has never bothered me.”
Matthew, who had been a swimmer since he was nine, only tried climbing as he was looking for a new challenge.
He had never climbed seriously and had only tried the sport at birthday parties until 2014 when his mum suggested he entered two national climbing competitions.
Since then Matthew, who is now a climbing instructor, has smashed numerous paraclimbing competitions, with the most recent being the World Paraclimbing Championships last September, where he came first in his category.
He currently trains four times a week for 2.5 hours a day, and climbing has now even turned into his full time job.
He added: “I had been a swimmer for years but I was bored of that and was on the lookout for something new.
“I did some climbing indoor parties before but they had nothing to do with real climbing.
“I have been a swimmer but I was bored of that and was on the lookout for something new- and I quite liked it.
“I started training with my coach, Robin O’Leary and got good at it.
“My goal is to become a fully professional athlete – at the the World Championship and the Paralympics”.