Matthew Brewer competes at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. (Photo: Joe Kusumoto)
The week after coming home from his first two alpine skiing world cup races, all Matthew Brewer could think about was working with his team.
That week, a two-hour team meeting was at hand. The topic of “justice, inclusion, diversity and equality” was on the table.
“Putting that into play in our team atmosphere has been a goal of mine since I’ve joined the team,” he said. “I feel like we’re on the right path, but there’s still work to do.”
A late-blooming elite sit skier, undergraduate and entrepreneur, Brewer is still reaching for his ceiling in every facet of his life.
It made 2022 a busy year for the 47-year-old Californian. The highlights on last year’s checklist include making his Paralympic debut in February, getting married to partner Wendy Remington in October and racing in his world cup debut in December.
The only missing element for his world cup races was Remington’s presence. The difference between a post-race embrace versus a congratulatory text thread was noticeable.
“Going to my first world cup was quite the learning experience, and not being able to share that with my wife has been very difficult because she’s been such an integral part of my success,” Brewer said. “But it’s what I signed up for and what I expected.”
If world cup stops in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Steinach am Brenner, Austria, did not introduce the lesson in taking one serving of gratification at a time, they reaffirmed it. As such, it is that much more apparent why Brewer bumped up his graduation timetable at Saddleback College.
Brewer is on tentative pace to finish his degree in business a full three decades after finishing high school in Huntington Beach, California.
“I didn’t enjoy school when I was younger,” he said. “I didn’t have anything driving me.”
A competitive able-bodied ski racer in the late 1990s, Brewer lost his legs to compartment syndrome a few years later. After acquiring his prosthetics and finding Para alpine skiing, his purpose started to regroup.
He gained admission to Saddleback — a community college in Mission Viejo, California — through the department of vocational rehabilitation and started studying computer maintenance technology.
As his interests evolved, especially through his work as a patient ambassador at Salt Lake City’s Hanger Clinic — where he met Remington, a prosthetist and area clinic manager — he craved a practical outlet to represent those with disabilities.
“I was recognizing that in adaptive sports, there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Brewer said, referring to functional and affordable equipment. “Now, with this newfound drive to be a better human being and being able to provide some sort of benefit to my demographic of people with disabilities, it really drove me to want to sign up for business classes.”
Brewer has wanted to inspire by example. He finished 12th in the slalom and 25th in the giant slalom at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. He’s also had multiple top-10 finishes on the world cup circuit, including two eighth-place slalom finishes in Switzerland and a ninth-place finish in the super-G in Austria.
Reaching that level has been the payoff for sacrificing summer school classes to train in Norway and Switzerland this past offseason. That commitment to training also meant taking the latest semester off.
That said, Brewer is still eyeing a date with his degree in 2023. He feels that will be crucial to advancing his vision for merging minds with Remington and equipping fellow adaptive athletes sooner.
There is already some progress along that avenue. He and Remington have one working beneficiary from the USA Hockey’s Women’s Development Sled Hockey Team.
“And I would love to be able to provide more seats for more individuals that need a custom seat,” Brewer said.
“There are a few businesses out there,” he continued. “But they’re very cost-prohibitive, so we’re looking to hopefully be able to make them a little bit less cost-prohibitive and a little bit better quality than what’s on the market currently.”
Devising ways to flex carbon fiber or fiberglass around each individual’s specific requirements could be the key. Whatever it takes to include more aspirant adaptive athletes, help them maximize their skills and thereby advance equal opportunity.
Heading into the new year, Brewer is driven to climb up the world cup leaderboards.
“I’ve got quite a bit of experience to gain,” he said. “So I’m looking at the upcoming world cup races as just an opportunity to learn and to close the gap.”