Strength and resilience: Matt Scott’s journey to Tokyo 2020

Five-time Paralympian Matt Scott, 36 years old, has a clear idea about his  goal for Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo later this summer: winning the gold medal. 

“Winning this gold medal is a bit of redemption for me,” Scott said. “Not a redemption against anyone or against any particular thing, just showing myself that the adversity that I have faced over the past few years was nothing compared to the determination that I have.”

FILE: Matt Scott After Winning The Gold Medal at the 2019 Para Pan Games in Lima, Peru (CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

And although winning is the ultimate goal at the Paralympics, after all that happened in the past few years, Scott said the most important aspect for him is the journey that led him to take part in yet another Paralympic Games. 

“This entire preparation and [the Games] being postponed, and not being able to travel, and being away from my family, and being away from the team. Just the fact that Tokyo is going about, just get it on the floor, put it on my Team USA jersey, get in the huddle with my guys, that’s all going to feel like a win.”

The adversity that Scott had to overcome to be on Team USA again, was not limited only to the incredibly rough year the global pandemic forced upon all of us, but also a health scare he had in late 2018 that almost finished his  career in sport. 

“I had a pressure sore at a pressure sore that I tried to take care of myself because I didn’t want to step away from basketball for the time and I kept telling myself I’ll take care of it after […]but after never came and that that wound that I had ended up turning septic and then I went into septic shock.” 

FILE: Matt Scott during The Gold Medal at the 2019 Para Pan Games in Lima, Peru (CREDIT: Michael A. Clubine)

He suffered some organ failure that included both of his lungs and some kidney trouble, he went into a coma for about a week, and ended up staying in hospital for four months.

“When I first woke up from the coma I wasn’t really sure that I was going to be able to play basketball at a high level again,” he said. 

“And after all of that, I was able to train and retain my spot on the national team, just in time for the Parapan American Games where we were able to qualify for the Paralympics. And that meant everything to me.”

Considering that Team USA is the defending champion in wheelchair basketball after having won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, they will enter the competition with being the favorite team  along with  the expectation and pressure to confirm the result of the last Paralympic Games. 

“I don’t really worry about the target on our backs,” Scott said. “The thing about playing for Team USA is whether we’re the reigning champs or [not] people just want to beat us. […] We’re a very well-known team, we have a lot of well-known players, we have a team that is going to have a target on its back no matter what.”

“So, we don’t really worry about that, we just go out there not to be better than anybody, but just to play our brand of basketball, we set standards for ourselves, our coach calls them gold medal standards. And as long as we hold ourselves to that standard, and we just play the best basketball that we can play, we don’t really compare ourselves to other teams.”

He added that any team present in Tokyo will be a potential threat, it has been a long time since all national teams have been in  competition together and everyone is extremely  motivated to be in their best shape after a challenging year. 

“There’s so much that we’ve all had to overcome over the past few years. It’s going to be a great Games, there’s gonna be a lot of passion, a lot of preparation going into this.”

“I’m very excited. It’s gonna be very different. But each game has been, so the legacy of this 2021 Paralympics is just going to be the resilience that we’ve all shown all year.”

Matt Scott and the wheelchair basketball team will debut in Tokyo on Thursday, Aug. 26, in the first preliminary group B match against  Germany. 

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