Challenge Sport

By Joanna Delalande

‘Speed is a gift’ says Commonwealth champion

Leading the pack
LEADING THE PACK: Matthew Glaetzer leading into the final corner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games men’s keirin in Glasgow, Scotland (Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Relief and pride flood over Matthew Glaetzer as he watches the front wheel of his bike cross the finish line first on the slow motion replay.

It is July 27, 2014 and Matthew has just won the gold medal in the keirin at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

"This is the biggest win for me," he says, "and it's just an amazing experience."

His biggest win, maybe, but not his first.

Matthew initially took to vaulting until an injury pushed him towards cycling in his early teens. "He took to track racing like a duck to water," says Graeme Zucher, the vice president of Matthew's club Central Districts.

Since then his success has been unquestionable – the young cyclist has even been compared to Scottish track cycling icon Chris Hoy by his coach Gary West.

Winning two world junior titles in the sprint and the keiren in 2010 earned him a full-time scholarship at the national program training with Olympians such as Anna Meares and Shane Perkins.

“I don’t take any credit for what I can do”In 2011, his first year as a senior, he was selected for his first senior World Championship and the following year became world champion in the team sprint. "That's when I became one of the future contenders of the sport," he says.

Matthew competing
DEC 7, 2014: Matthew competing in the Sprint finals at the London UCI Track Cycling World Cup (Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old cyclist hopes to bring a medal home from Rio in 2016, though he takes credit for none of his achievements. "I've been a Christian all my life and [God] is the one who enables me to do this. I don't take any credit for what I can do physically because it's been given to me as a gift."

Born and raised in a Christian family, Matthew had given his life to Christ at a very young age. After having drifted from God after injuries during his teenage years, he rededicated his life to the Lord at a camp run by his local church.

He was singing songs of praise to Jesus when he encountered God's peace. "I had my eyes opened again to who He was and how much He loved me," he says.

It was that peace that Matthew sought at the 2010 Junior World Titles when the pressure became too much for him.

Matthew Glaetzer celebrates
JULY 27, 2014: Australia's Matthew Glaetzer celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's keirin track cycling event during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games (Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

"I was so caught up with the race that I put too much pressure on myself, and I became obsessed with winning," Matthew describes.

"You wouldn't have recognised me because my personality was so different. I couldn't make decisions.

"I had an intense prayer session, calling out to God because I couldn't do it myself," he remembers. "And in the following two days I became a two-time junior world champion.

"I had to wholeheartedly rely of God's strength to pull me through."

Matthew felt relieved from the pressure he felt to have to win all the time. "Jesus to me is the reason I can have peace," he says. "He has taken the burden of all my sin and through Him I can have eternal life in Heaven. It makes a huge difference in how you live because you know you've won the victory already."

Now, when out on the tracks, Matthew strives to do his best and enjoy it.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to show that you don't have to rely on the world to survive and that there is something greater," he says. He hopes to make others realise where their value truly lies.

"People value their life based on what they do and how successful they are," he explains. "That was the case in my cycling team and it can have really harmful effects because if you don't perform well you feel rubbish about yourself.

"God loves you for who you are," he says, "not what you do or where you come from."

"You do not have to be a gold medal-winning cyclist to be successful. God has already put a price on your life: you are invaluable."

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