Special Olympic athlete excelling in powerlifting

When you step into Performance One Advanced Sports Training, you can feel the intensity in the room.

“With powerlifting, it gets pretty crazy,” said Joe Micela, owner of the Mesa training facility. “It gets pretty intense with guys trying to psych themselves up.”

Micela’s goal is to develop high school, college and professional athletes. But he takes great pride in producing Olympic level weightlifters.

Matthew Herbert trains with Micela three times a week and this 19-year-old definitely fits that Olympic level category.

“From the first time I met Matthew, I saw that he was special,” Micela said. “He took to powerlifting and lifting very naturally.

Matthew is a 4-time Arizona Special Olympics gold medalist.

He will be one of over 1300 athletes from across Arizona participating in this weekend’s Special Olympics State Summer Games.

To add to his growing number of gold medals, Micela and Matthew have a specific weight goal in mind.

“We have been talking about certain numbers,” Micela said. “Maybe 200 pound bench press and 440 pound dead lift.”

“Who knows,” Matthew said with a confident smile. “I might go in with 450 pounds and then 470 pounds.”

Surpassing his goals would not surprise his mother, Marta Herbert.

“He always lifts more than Joe is expecting him to lift, which is awesome,” Marta said. “It is really fun to watch him because he makes it look so easy, like he is just lifting a pillow.”

The motivation for Matthew to compete is not all about winning medals.

“It is more important for me to push myself beyond my limits,” he said.

And it is this focus and drive that makes him a role model for other Special Olympic athletes.

“He has then taken the role from athlete to an assistant coach,” Micela said. “So now he is able to help out the other guys, wether it be technique, spotting or showing them a demo.”

It is a role that this once shy athlete takes on with great responsibility.

“I help the other lifters do their best,” Matthew said. “And also when I am competing I show them what I am capable of as well as boost their confidence.”