As a kid, Matthew Pascoe showed little interest in sports, preferring to hang out with his grandmother than do track and field with his sisters. It wasn’t much different later, when he joined his high school’s basketball team.
“I said to the teacher, ‘How does it go?’” says Pascoe’s mother, Tricia. “And she said, ‘Well, Matt stays as far away from the ball as he can.’”
But the easy-going teen surprised everyone one day when a coach asked him to run a 400-meter race. Pascoe sprinted joyously and effortlessly around the track, handily beating his opponents.
“He was really quick – big heart and just didn’t stop,” says Pascoe’s father, John. “That’s been his event since.”
Now a Special Olympics athlete, the 25-year-old Australian sprinter will compete in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games opening Saturday in Los Angeles, after winning gold and silver at the 2011 World Games in Athens. Pascoe will also run the 200 meters and 4×100 relay.
A new games management system, created by Microsoft in partnership with Special Olympics, will calculate Pascoe’s new times, as he aims to beat his personal best of 52.96 seconds in the 400 meters. Microsoft is also supplying more than 2,000 devices to help run the World Games, whose live and online coverage will be on ESPN.
With 6,500 athletes competing from 165 countries, the games will be the world’s largest sports and humanitarian event of the year, and a vibrant display of Special Olympics’ mission to empower people with intellectual disabilities. An estimated 500,000 spectators will make the World Games the biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.
For Pascoe, who has autism, Special Olympics has helped him make friends and build confidence, while showcasing a talent for speed and determination to do his best. He trains six days a week in a tough regimen that includes predawn runs, hill runs, strength training, cross-training and group training.
“Running has become such an important part of his life; he just loves it,” says John Pascoe. “He is always positive at training, is always the first to get up and be ready to go again. His training partners have called him a machine! He tries hard all the time and is very dedicated to what he does.”
Pascoe also enjoys encouraging fellow athletes and being healthy and active.
“I like running because it makes you fit, and sometimes it’s fun to compete with people you might know,” he says.
Supporting him is a close-knit family, in which Pascoe is the only boy in a set of quadruplets. Growing up, he learned a lot from his sisters ― Kate, Elizabeth and Jessica ― who acted as role models, helped him at school and rooted for him during races and games.
“They helped me through life,” he says.
In a few days, his parents and sister Jessica will cheer him on at the World Games, the culmination of years of hard work. Helping him capture and share the exciting global journey is a Lumia 930 and a Surface Pro 3.
Pascoe’s goal? To bring home three gold medals ― and achieve a new personal best.
Learn more about the athletes and the upcoming Special Olympics World Games.
Lead photo: Special Olympics sprinter Matthew Pascoe, courtesy of Special Olympics.