Updated: Dec 29, 2020
Langley's Matthew Williams (blue) competes in speed skating
By Dan Ferguson
Langley's Matthew Williams has been named Special Olympics Canada’s male athlete of the year.
“It was quite a surprise,” Williams told the Langley Advance Times.
“It means a lot.”
It comes after Williams set four personal bests in speed skating at the 2020 Special Olympics Winter Games, held in Thunder Bay, Ontario from Feb. 25 – 29, which netted him four medals; two silver and two bronze.
“Special Olympics has given me friendship, respect, inclusion, better health, great coaching, and most of all, let me become a champion,” Williams said in the ceremony.
He thanked his family, his wife and friends for their support.
Williams was described in the online awards announcement as “a determined, dedicated athlete known for his exemplary commitment to his training, his constant pursuit of self-improvement, his inspiring sportsmanship, his kind and humble nature, and his outstanding sport achievements.”
In his 15 years as a Special Olympics athlete, Williams has medalled in speed skating at multiple National Games and at the 2017 World Games.
He has represented B.C. in six National Games for speed skating, basketball, and athletics, and competed for Canada in two World Games for speed skating and basketball.
Williams is also a member of the Special Olympics B.C. Leadership Council, and is a former chair of the Special Olympics Global Athlete Congress, member of the Special Olympics International Board of Directors, and a Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger.
“This movement has changed my life and those of so many others and it has changed the way the world sees people with disabilities,” he told the crowd. “Come join us someday at Special Olympics, see if you walk away with your heart unchanged.”
He also spoke at a White House dinner with then-president Barack Obama in 2014.
Williams was born with epilepsy and he told the White House audience how he faced seizures, brain surgery and bullying when he was younger, but made it through with the help of people who believed in him.