Matthew Torres competes at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games
This summer was nothing like Matthew Torres thought it would be.
Obviously that’s true for nearly everybody, but Torres is one of the many young Paralympic hopefuls that felt he was ready, on the cusp of greatness and prepared for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. The ramp up to the original Opening Ceremony was nearing its culmination before the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on the sporting world and his Paralympic dreams in March.
Suddenly, Torres’ preparations for Tokyo came to a halt just as they were supposed to pay off.
“It was pretty difficult,” said Torres. “Mentally it was so stressful, but it was just something else that I took just trying my best to push through.”
The moment Torres had been targeting since 2016 was pushed back another 365 days, and he's looking to maintain and build on the momentum he built from an impressive outing at the Parapan American Games, which followed a strong showing at nationals earlier that year.
Torres turned heads after winning six medals at both events and found himself in position to potentially represent Team USA in Japan.
“I worried about my strength,” he said. “I was worried that I wouldn't be the swimmer that I was last year at the Pan Am games and, it was just staggering to me that I had come so close to fulfilling my dream of being a Paralympian for Team USA and within a few days, all that disappeared.
“So that was very difficult to handle at first. Even getting back into training the first few weeks, it was like, ‘yeah I'm definitely not the swimmer I was a few months ago’.”
Now still, even as the roller coaster feels stuck at the peak after a long climb with no drop, Torres feels he has a window to make his mark at the next Paralympic Games, but that obviously won’t come without wholesale change to his training regimen.
Torres admits he lost some ground as he was unable to train for three months due to limited pool access, but after returning to his club team, the Westport Water Rats, he’s starting to feel like his old self.
He’s getting more comfortable in his main strokes, freestyle and backstroke, and the endurance is slowly coming back. But he says there’s still work to do as he’s only been able to train nine hours a week as opposed to regular 18 before quarantine.
Now in his second year at Fairfield University, Torres elected to complete the fall semester remotely instead of on campus in Fairfield, Connecticut. Torres’ college squad has not returned to training.
“I had a phenomenal experience there my first year and it was a bit difficult admitting that maybe the first semester might not be the best choice for me to stay on campus,” he said.
Torres will instead be training at the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for the next few months. As for the spring semester, Torres said he’ll wait and see with the steady uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I'm keeping the options open and whether it be spring semester or fall of next year, I'm definitely excited,” he said. “And I'm looking forward to the day that I can return to the Fairfield campus and return to the swim team.”
Instead of winning Paralympic medals this summer, he was held standstill in quarantine unable to even get in a pool to train, but he hasn’t let that erode his confidence.
“There's a lot of optimism there. I'm really excited to see what's going to happen in the next year. I'm excited to see how much I'll be able to improve with this amount of time,” he said. “I know for a fact that I'll be able to come back stronger and faster than I was before. And that's always been the goal, to improve and be the best that you can be.”