Before he was the SEC Male Diver of The Year, Kurtis Mathews was just another boy growing up in Australia alongside his twin sister and his family.
When he was young, Mathews partook in other activities, such as rugby and track, but his interest in diving came when his parents enrolled him and his sister in swim lessons.
“We moved to the city of Perth in western Australia and my mum and dad decided, ‘It’s probably a very good time for you guys to learn how to swim,’” Mathews said.
After learning to swim, his instructor recommended he try diving.
“I was in club diving for probably a month or two, and then a national talent identification program… scouted me and my sister and we basically got recruited,” Mathews said.
With high hopes for his diving career, Mathews decided an American college was his best chance at pursuing the sport competitively.
“In Australia we have no NCAA,” Matthews said. “There’s no sort of collegiate athletics competition. There are some but it’s not on the same level, you don’t go to university and get a sporting scholarship.”
A connection to former Texas A&M diver and Australia native Grant Nel drew Mathews to Aggieland.
“I had a friend of mine who graduated from A&M,” Matthew said. “[He] talked to his old coach at A&M to see if he had any scholarship money. He put me in contact, and fortunately he had some.”
Living and competing in a foreign country is no simple task, however, especially while balancing schoolwork and relationships at the same time, Mathews said.
“You can’t just drive 45 minutes to go back home to mum and dad when you’re tired of being an adult,” Mathews said.
Mathews isn’t the only accomplished diver in the family, however. His sister is a competitive diver at the University of Iowa, though there is no competitiveness between the two, Mathews said.
“We loved it. We were both working towards the same goal, and we obviously didn’t have to compete against each other,” Mathews said. “That was probably better, if we had been two boys or two girls that would have been some serious sibling rivalry. We were very supportive of one another.”
The Mathews twins compete for two schools in different collegiate conferences that sit multiple states apart, but that wasn’t a coincidence.
“For all of our life we had always been ‘the twins,’” Mathews said. “Same classes in high school, same diving squad, always together. Go home at the end of the day and we were still together.”
The pair made a deal together that they would go to different schools and they stuck by it. They appreciated the idea of creating their own legacies, instead of having them intertwined, Mathews said.
“She ended up liking the University of Iowa better anyways,” Mathews said.
While the team was pursuing a run at the NCAA Championships in March, their season was cut short due to COVID-19. As much as it hurt the team, it was tough on Mathews as well.
While he understands why the decision to end the spring season was made, Mathews said he still wonders what could have been if he had gotten to compete.
“I knew I was probably going to come away with two medals, don’t know what color they would have been. I say it confidently,” Mathews said.
It wasn’t only his collegiate diving performance that was affected by the cancellations, however.
“I was really in the running to make the Australian Olympic team,” Mathews said. “It was really hard and there was nothing I could do about it.”
Now, not only is his future as a diver looking up since the SEC announced the start dates for the 2020-2021 season, but as a senior, Mathews is close to completing his degree in philosophy with the hopes of coaching the same sport that gave him so many opportunities.
“My goal is to graduate and take over the role as the assistant diving coach and do my master’s degree here at A&M,” Mathews said. “One day I would really like to become a professor and try and teach philosophy.”