Plainview grad Monique Burkland Matthews competing for Team USA at Tokyo Paralympics
It’s no secret that Olympic competition is difficult, especially when athletes have to make the long trek to another country. And while many would think it would be more challenging for Paralympic athletes, that’s not the case.
Monique Burkland Matthews will be the first to tell you that, and she should know, as the Plainview High School graduate won a gold medal during the 2016 Rio games.
“I can’t really think of anything that is difficult about the Paralympic competition that isn’t at any other tournament,” Matthews said. “Honestly, it is probably easier because everything is always planned out well and the athletes are well taken care of. The biggest difficulties we have as Paralympic athletes is funding and exposure.”
That situation can be difficult, but Matthews and the Team USA sitting volleyball squad encountered another issue leading up to 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
“COVID definitely put everyone behind from where they were,” Matthews said. “There was definitely no advantage to having it delayed because we weren’t able to get into a gym and practice like we normally do.”
Team USA is still the favorite to win another gold medal when the Paralympics kick off Tuesday, Aug. 24. Competition starts the next day and Matthews knows the squad is ready to make noise.
“We have nine returning players from Rio and three making their Paralympic debuts, so we are very deep,” she said. “I think we have a great chance of repeating gold.”
Matthews should play an instrumental role, too, as she was named the USAV Women’s Sitting Player of the Year in 2015, 2017 and 2019, along with several other awards.
Only time will tell if Matthews adds another gold medal to that list, but she is thankful for the ones in her corner.
“I do appreciate everyone and anyone who still keeps up with my journey and is supporting from afar,” Matthews said.