Matt is helping youngsters to get their skates on

Photos by Pears Photography
Photos by Pears Photography

Paralympian Matt Lloyd helped set up and launch a new ice skating rink – the first of its kind in the UK – in Gainsborough.

The 44-year-old was born with bilateral talipes and spina bifida, which means he needs to wear splints or use a wheelchair to get around.

But Matt did not let this stop him following his dream and he has competed in ice sledge hockey at the 2006 Winter Paralympics, in sitting volleyball at the 2007 European Championships and is credited with inventing the sport of inline sledge hockey.

Matt has now helped open SK8Z in Gainsborough.

He says: “I was becoming increasingly frustrated that only large towns and cities were getting access to quality health and leisure facilities.

“So I decided I would be disruptive to the existing business model and create something that would be viable for smaller towns and that would also appeal to people not interested in mainstream sports.”

Matt says he has a desire to make non-mainstream health and leisure opportunities available to communities.

SK8Z offers a completely new skating concept, using “off-ice” skates and skating without the need for ice.

Matt says: “The challenges are marketing a new concept to the community, ice skating without the ice, and helping them understand the activities that are on offer.

“As I have been involved with ice rinks for a large part of my life, I had to realise I took for granted concepts that people without my experience had no understanding of.

“It’s also been challenging building a team who share my passion for community sport and educating them about ice skating.”

However, Matt says it is rewarding to see young people embrace skating and learn a new skill as well.

He says: “As well as providing somewhere for families to come and take part in a health activity together, it’s also been great to see the team we’ve put together develop, especially our apprentices.”

Matt started a sports consultancy business after he was made redundant.

He says: “ I just drifted into it. I used to work in local government while playing Paralympic sport.

“When I got made redundant I started a sports consultancy business and simply evolved into wanting to run a community sports facility.”

Matt married his wife Ruth on the ice at Widnes ice rink in Cheshire.

The wedding was the first in the UK conducted at an ice rink and featured an ice hockey game as part of the celebrations.

Matt says that, outside of his family, his biggest achievement has been representing Great Britain in two different sports.

He says: “I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Great Britain in two sports, sitting volleyball and ice sledge hockey and to take part in European and World Championships, as well as the 2006 Winter Paralympics in Italy.

“There is no bigger achievement in sport.”

Matt has lived throughout the UK, but considers Liverpool his home, due to his family heritage.

He says: “My father was an officer in the Merchant Navy and as a child I spent a lot of time in foreign countries, which gave me a great insight into other cultures.”

Matt has a degree in business information systems from Liverpool John Moores University and was also an Olympic torchbearer.

He says: “I’m also the chairman of the Widnes Wild ice hockey team which is great, as it allows me to keep actively involved with a sports team.”

Looking to the future, Matt hopes SK8Z will become a national company, with multiple sites, and for his family to be happy.

Matt said: “As SK8Z is a social enterprise, I’m not financially driven and so any profit made my SK8Z is put back into helping the community.”

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