Keegan Matheson: ‘I’ll remember a Boccia match’

Keegan Matheson interviewing an athlete in Rio
Building relationships with athletes is key to comprehensive coverage for Keegan Matheson.

My experience at the Rio Paralympics taught me the value of personal relationships and humility when covering sports.

Reporting on a team or individual that has just won a Paralympic medal has many benefits. There is a built-in joy and openness that comes with success, something that can lead to interviews and stories coming relatively easily.

I did not cover a medal winner, or even a medal event, until the final day of the Games. My primary beat, wheelchair basketball, featured Canadian men’s and women’s teams that were the defending Paralympic and World Champions, respectively. Both teams fell short of the podium, the men especially.

Still, the players were generous with their time and thoughts even after difficult losses. With very little media following the teams, they recognized me as someone who had been there at empty practices and preliminary competitions. Building these relationships at scrimmages and 9 a.m. games is something I’ll always remember.

Finally, and most importantly, I left Rio with my perspective on sport altered by a Boccia quarter-final.

Canada’s Alison Levine lost a very close match, leaving her fifth in the final tournament rankings. Her sheer joy afterwards, which she shared with her mother and friends, perfectly captured the essence of the Paralympic Games and sport itself.

There will be times in my career when I am challenged in a different position or pushing myself to do something new. I won’t always be perfect, and I may not always medal. Sometimes I’ll come fifth, and in those moments, I’ll remember a Boccia match in Rio.