Matthew Syed

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Matthew Syed
Born (1970-11-02) 2 November 1970 (age 50)
Reading, Berkshire, England
EducationMaiden Erlegh School
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Spouse(s)Kathy Weeks
Sports career
Medal record
Men's Table Tennis
Representing  England
Gold medal – first place 2002 Manchester Men's – Team

Matthew Philip Syed (born 2 November 1970) is a British journalist, author, broadcaster and former table tennis player. He competed as an English table tennis international, and was the English number one for many years. He was three times the men's singles champion at the Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships[1] (in 1997, 2000 and 2001), and also competed for Great Britain in two Olympic Games, at Barcelona in 1992 and at Sydney in 2000.[2]

He also embarked on a journalism career, having worked for The Times newspaper since 1999. He has published six books, Bounce in 2010, Black Box Thinking in 2015, The Greatest in 2017, You Are Awesome in 2018, Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking in 2019, and Dare to be You in 2020.

Early life[edit]

Syed was born in Reading, Berkshire. His father, Abbas Syed, is a Pakistani immigrant to Britain who converted from Shia Islam to Christianity, and his mother is Welsh.[3][4]

He attended the Maiden Erlegh School in Earley near Reading, then studied at Balliol College, Oxford, where he graduated with first-class honours in PPE[4] in 1995.[5]

Sporting career[edit]

A right-handed table-tennis player, Syed was the top ranked player in England for nearly 10 years. He won many titles with his usually defensive style. He reached his top world ranking of 25 at the end of 1998.

He reached the final of the European Youth Championships in 1985, losing to Dmitry Mazunov. He was a member of the English team that won the European title in 1986.

He represented Great Britain in the men's singles at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, but failed to reach the second knockout stage each time. He says that he "choked" at the Sydney Olympics: "when I walked out into the mega-watt light of the competition arena, I could hardly hit the ball."[6]

He was English champion four times, in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001. He also won the men's singles event at three consecutives Commonwealth Table Tennis Championships, in 1997 in Glasgow, 2000 in Singapore and 2001 in Delhi, and also won three titles as a member of the English men's team in 1994, 1997 and 2000. He was also a member of the England men's team that won the gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Author and commentator[edit]

Syed has worked as a commentator for the BBC and Eurosport, and as a journalist for The Times since 1999. He is a regular pundit on radio and television, commentating on sporting, cultural and political issues. His film China and Table Tennis, made for the BBC, won bronze medal at the Olympic Golden Rings ceremony in Lausanne[1] in 2008.

Syed is a multi award-winning journalist and author. His style has been mocked by satirical magazine Private Eye.[7]

In his second book, Black Box Thinking, he argues that the key to success is a positive attitude to failure; it was published by John Murray in 2015.

Syed is the co-founder of Matthew Syed Consulting. He was one of the co-founders of TTK Greenhouse, a sports-related charity.[citation needed]

Syed hosts a BBC Radio 5 Live podcast called Flintoff, Savage & The Ping Pong Guy. Alongside him on the podcast are ex-England cricketer Andrew Flintoff and former Blackburn Rovers captain Robbie Savage. Current sporting topics are discussed on the podcast.[8]

In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Liberal Arts by Abertay University in Dundee.[9]

His book You Are Awesome was published in 2018. The publisher describes it as "a positive and empowering guide to help children build resilience".[10] A follow-up, Dare to be You, was released in 2020.[11]

In 2021 he began presenting a new programme on BBC Radio 4, Sideways, about "the ideas that shape our lives".[12]

Awards and accolades[edit]

  • Best British Book Award, Children's Non-Fiction 2019 (You Are Awesome)
  • Winner of 2 ARIA awards for Best New Radio Show and Best New Podcast (2017)
  • Editorial Intelligence – Sports Commentator of the Year (2013, 2016)
  • HR Top 30 Most Influential Thinkers - 2017
  • Perkbox Top 30 HR Influencers – 2017
  • LinkedIn Top Voices in UK - 2016
  • Advising the Department of Health (with Jeremy Hunt MP) - 2016
  • Number 1 Thought Leader LinkedIn Award – 2016
  • British Press Awards – Sports Journalist of the Year (2009, 2015)
  • SJA Awards - Feature Writer and Sports Columnist of the Year 2014
  • British Sports Book Awards - Best New Writer (for first book, Bounce) - 2011
  • British Press Awards - Sports Journalist of the Year - 2009
  • Sports Feature Writer of the Year - 2008
  • Men's Singles Gold Medal Winner - 2001
  • Men's Singles Gold Medal Winner - 2000
  • Olympian representing Great Britain - 2000
  • Men's Singles Gold Medal Winner - 1997
  • Men's Singles Champion - 4 x Men's National Singles Champion, 1996/97, 1997/98, 1999/00, 2000/01
  • British No.1 10 Years - 1992 – 2002
  • Olympian representing Great Britain - 1992


Syed stood as the Labour candidate in the 2001 UK General Election in Wokingham, coming third in a safe Conservative seat.[13] Syed won a place on the Labour Party's shortlist to succeed Ashok Kumar for the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency in the 2010 UK General Election. However, the party selected Tom Blenkinsop, who had worked in Kumar's constituency office for six years.[14]

In the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election, he endorsed Jeremy Hunt.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Syed is married to Kathy Weeks. They have a son and a daughter.[16][17][18][19]


  • Syed, Matthew (2010). Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the science of success. HarperCollins. 312pp. ISBN 978-0-06-172375-9.
  • Syed, Matthew (2015). Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes – But Some Do. Portfolio. 336pp. ISBN 978-1591848226.
  • Syed, Matthew (2017). The Greatest: What Sport Teaches Us About Achieving Success. John Murray. ISBN 978-1473653665.
  • Syed, Matthew (2018). You Are Awesome. Illustrated by Toby Triumph. John Murray. 160pp. ISBN 978-1492687535.
  • Syed, Matthew (2019). Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking. John Murray. ISBN 978-1473613942.
  • Syed, Matthew (2020). Dare to Be You: Defy Self-Doubt, Fearlessly Follow Your Own Path and Be Confidently You!. Illustrated by Toby Triumph. Hachette Children's Group. 192pp. ISBN 978-1526362377.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Matthew Syed – Award Winning Journalist, Best-Selling Author, & Broadcaster". Retrieved 11 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Matthew Syed". British Olympic Association. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  3. ^ Syed, Matthew (30 November 2013). "My father, the immigrant". The Times. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  4. ^ a b Jacobson, Howard (17 July 2002). "Matthew Syed: An unlikely hero". The Independent. London. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Matthew Syed: 'Analysing mistakes is key to success'". 31 August 2015.
  6. ^ Syed, Matthew (1 May 2012). "Should people accept that pressure is a fact of life?". BBC News. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  7. ^ Private Eye, "Hackwatch", issue 1287, April 2011.
  8. ^ "Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy". BBC Radio 5 Live. Retrieved 12 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Abertay announces honorary graduates". Abertay. 12 January 2017.
  10. ^ "You Are Awesome". 15 May 2019 – via
  11. ^ . Hachette Australia Retrieved 5 August 2021. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Sideways, See The World Differently". BBC. 3 February 2021. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  13. ^ "Vote2001 Results & Constituencies". BBC News. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  14. ^ Hetherington, Graeme (5 April 2010). "Tom Blenkinsop, a campaign manager with steel union Community, chosen". The Northern Echo. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
  15. ^ "Jeremy Hunt battles Michael Gove to be top challenger to Boris Johnson". The Scotsman. 10 June 2019.
  16. ^ "Kathy Weeks – Founder – Matthew Syed Consulting". LinkedIn. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  17. ^ "About Mathew Syed". Mathew Syed's website. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  18. ^ Syed, Matthew (3 October 2016). "When Teddy bit Evie, we turned to tough love". The Times.
  19. ^ Syed, Matthew (24 March 2018). "Kids must be willing to fail if they want to succeed". The Times.

External links[edit]