Nothing will stop this U.K. teen from overcoming his obstacles and climbing mountains – even if he only has one arm.
Matthew Phillips, 18, of Surrey, has proven himself at both the national and international levels as a formidable rock climber, even though he doesn’t have a right arm below the elbow.
“People are surprised. When they see me, they’re usually shocked, they ask me, ‘How did you do that?’” he said in an interview with Caters News Agency. “There are always things I can’t do, but it’s not about focusing on what you can’t do – the trick is finding the alternative, the next best thing or something similar.”
Phillips was born missing his right arm, and doctors were never able to find a medical reason.
That never stopped him from being just like other kids, though, and Phillips spent his childhood playing sports and climbing trees like the other kids his age.
“When I was younger, I always liked climbing on trees or up walls,” he recalled. “I have never been bullied. While there have been the occasional comments, especially from children, it has never bothered me.”
Phillips said he was originally a swimmer but wanted to look around for a new hobby when he discovered climbing.
He had very little experience when his mom suggested try competing on the national level and his passion flourished.
“I think what I like the most about climbing is the challenge, being able to do this,” he said. “It makes me feel like I can do anything. There is also the problem-solving aspect – I have to think outside the box.”
Phillips now trains four times a week and is a full-time climbing instructor between high-level paraclimbing competitions.
“My goal is to become a fully professional athlete,” Phillips said. “At the World Championship and the Paralympics."