Kevin Mather, 39, will be the Santa Clarita Valley’s lone representative in the Paralympics this week, as he’s set to compete in recurve archery for Team USA starting Thursday in Japan.
Mather is competing in his first Paralympics with the Tokyo Games, but he’s no stranger to the international stage. He also competed in the Beijing World Archery Para Championships in 2017, when he won a silver medal in team archery.
Mather has had a love of competition since his days growing up in Santa Clarita, where he played offensive line for the Valencia High School football team. He continued his training to eventually compete at the 2012 Kona Ironman Silver. To qualify for the Ironman, Mather won the wheelchair division of the Los Angeles Marathon in 2012.
“I love to compete,” said Mather. “Being able to put on the red, white and blue and represent the U.S. on this amazing stage is both humbling and the icing on the cake for me.”
Archery came naturally for Mather. He used a bow for a year when he was growing up and decided to pick it up again when a hospital volunteer asked to go shooting with him. It wasn’t until March 2017 when he started to take archery seriously.
With all the hard work and dedication, Mather not only gets to compete for his country, but also for the city of Santa Clarita. When thinking of the city, Mather thinks of the Skinner family (Andrew, Kristin, and Betty), who are very close friends and started the Triumph Foundation, a nonprofit that helps people triumph over spinal cord injuries. They have helped Mather immensely along the way and he says he owes it to them for getting his life back together.
“Representing Team USA and Santa Clarita means the world to me,” said Mather. “There are so many amazing people in this country supporting one another as we all strive towards our goals in life. There is no way I could have gotten here on my own.”
Along the way to training for the Paralympics, Mather has met many athletes who have been giving him pointers and different methods of training. Learning what is to be expected at the archery events as well as putting a thousand arrows through his bow this year, there is always room to improve.
Mather attributes his perseverance to be able to compete in these Paralympics as his added motivation to be the best athlete possible. Despite COVID-19 rocking the world, Mather still found new methods to train in hopes of bringing home the gold for his city and country.
“Being in Tokyo now and seeing the determination of the people of Tokyo is incredibly humbling,” said Mather. “So much time, effort, love and passion has gone into making these games happen that I’ll be forever indebted to those in Tokyo who made these games happen.”
Mather’s first chance of competition will begin at 10:00 p.m. Thursday, Pacific time, in the mixed team recurve and men’s recurve archery events.