Matthew "Matt" John Cowdrey, OAM (born 22 December 1988) is an Australian swimmer and holder of numerous world records. He lives in South Australia and swims for the Marion Swimming Club. He has a congenital amputation of his left arm; it stops just below the elbow. Cowdrey competed at the 2004 Paralympic Games, 2006 Commonwealth Games, 2008 Paralympic Games, 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2012 Paralympic Games. After the 2012 London Games, he is the most successful Australian Paralympian, having won thirteen Paralympic gold medals and twenty three Paralympic medals in total. On 10 February 2015, Cowdrey announced his retirement from swimming.
2012 Australian Paralympic Team portrait of Cowdrey
|Full name||Matthew John Cowdrey|
22 December 1988 |
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
|Height||182 cm (6 ft 0 in)|
|Strokes||Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly, Medley|
|Classifications||S9, SB8, SM9|
Cowdrey was born on 22 December 1988 with part of his arm missing due to a congenital amputation. He attended Endeavour College and played basketball when he was younger. He moved to Canberra and started swimming for the Australian Institute of Sport, while continuing to represent the Norwood Swimming Club of Adelaide on the club level. In 2011, he also represented Kawana Waters Swimming Club. As of 2013[update], he swims for the Marion Swimming Club.
In April 2015, Cowdrey graduated from the University of Adelaide with a double degree in law and media. In 2013, he undertook a three-month internship with US congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. In 2015, at the time of his retirement he was working for KPMG in Adelaide.
Cowdrey competes in the International Paralympic Committee's S9 (freestyle, backstroke and butterfly) SB8 (breaststroke) and SM9 (individual medley) classifications; which comprise swimmers with a severe leg weakness, swimmers with slight coordination problems and swimmers with one limb loss. Cowdrey started swimming when he was five years old. He started competitive swimming in 1994. He broke his first Australian open record when he was eleven years old. He set his first world record at the age of thirteen.
Cowdrey was one of the youngest Australian competitors at the 2004 Paralympics. At the 2004 Games, he won three gold medals in the Men's 4x100 m Medley, 100 m freestyle S9 and 200 m individual medley SM9 events, for which he received a Medal of the Order of Australia, two silver medals in the 100 m butterfly S9 and 4×100 m freestyle Relay events, and two bronze medals in the 50 m freestyle S9 and 400 m freestyle S9 events.
At the 2005 Australian Open, Cowdrey won seven gold medals while setting two world records, and won two bronze medals.
At the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Trials, Cowdrey set world records and won gold medals in four events: The 200 m individual medley mixed disability classification, 100 m backstroke mixed disability classification, 50 m backstroke mixed disability classification and 50 m butterfly mixed disability classification events. He did not set world records but still won gold medals in two events: The 100 m freestyle mixed disability classification and 50 m Freestyle mixed disability classification events. At the 2006 Commonwealth Games Trials – Team Qualification Races, he won a gold medal and set a world record in the 100 m freestyle Elite Athlete with a Disability (EAD) event, and won a gold medal in the 50 m freestyle (EAD) event.
Cowdrey competed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Victoria, where he set two world records and won gold medals in the 50 m freestyle and 100 m freestyle events. He was Australia's only male non-relay individual swimming gold medalist in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. At the 2006 World Championships, he set three world records while winning three gold medals, two silver medals and bronze. In 2008, at the Australian Swimming Championships, he won gold medals four events:the 50 m freestyle, 100 m freestyle, 100 m backstroke and 100 m butterfly. At those same games, he won two silver medals in the 200 m individual medley and 400 m freestyle events. These Games had limited opportunities for Paralympic swimmers as not all events were on the event programme.
At the 2006 IPC Swimming World Championships, in Durban, South Africa, Cowdrey won five gold medals – Men's 50 m Freestyle S9, Men's 100 m Freestyle S9, Men's 100 m Butterfly S9, Men's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 and Men's 4 x 100 m Medley Relay (34 points), two silver medals – Men's 100 m Backstroke S9 and Men's 4 x 100 m Freestyle Relay (34 points) and one bronze medal in the Men's 400 m Freestyle S9.
At the 2008 Summer Paralympics, Cowdrey picked up five gold medals in the 50 m freestyle S9, 100 m freestyle S9, 100 m backstroke S9, 200 m individual medley-SM9 and 4×100 m medley Relay events. He picked up three silver medals in the 100 m butterfly S9, 400 m freestyle S9 and 4×100 m freestyle relay events. In Beijing, he set five world records. He also carried Australia's flag during the closing ceremonies for the Games.
At the 2009 IPC Short Course World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Cowdrey won seven gold medals and two silver medals. In 2009, he competed in his first international competition against able-bodied swimmers in Tucson, Arizona.
At the 2010 IPC Swimming World Championships, Cowdrey, who was classified as an S9 swimmer, won six gold medals and one silver medal. One of the medals was in the men's 4x100 m relay race. At the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, he won a gold medal in the 50 m freestyle S9 event in a world record time of 25.33 seconds, which is still standing as of February 2012.
In April 2011, he participated in the Telstra Australian Swimming Championships. In July 2011, he participated at the Australian Short Course Championships. In August 2011, he participated in the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships. In October 2011, he participated at the 2011 Swimmeroo QLD Long Course. In December, he competed in the Can-Am Swimming Open. A week before the Can-Am Swimming Open, Cowdrey was reclassified for breaststroke from SB9 to SB8. He won a gold medal in the SB8 100 m breaststroke, with the fourth fastest time posted for the event during 2011: 1:12.85.
At the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Cowdrey won gold medals in the 100 m backstroke S9, 50 m freestyle S9, 100 m freestyle S9, 200 m Individual Medley SM9 and 4 x 100 m Freestyle Relay 34 pts, silver medals in the 100 m Butterfly S9 and 100 m Breaststroke SB8 and a bronze medal in the Men's 4 x 100 m Medley Relay 34 pts. In winning the Men's 50 m Freestyle S9 event at the 2012 London Games, he became Australia's most successful Paralympian by winning his 11th gold medal and 20th medal overall, surpassing Tim Sullivan in gold medal count and Kingsley Bugarin in overall medal count.
In June 2013, Cowdrey confirmed that he would aim to compete at the 2016 Rio Games. He was back living in Glenelg and training at the South Australian Aquatic Centre. Competing at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal, Cowdrey won five gold medals in the Men's 50 m Freestyle S9, Men's 100 m Freestyle S9, Men's 100 m Backstroke S9, Men's 200 m Individual Medley SM9 and Men's 4x100 m Freestyle Relay 34 points and a bronze medal in the Men's 100 m Butterfly S9.
On announcing his retirement from swimming on 10 February 2015, Cowdrey stated: "I have been fortunate to have achieved more than I could ever have dreamed of, and more than I set out to achieve, and more importantly I have enjoyed every minute of my time on the Australian swim team." Glenn Tasker, President of the Australian Paralympic Committee said that: "It has been an absolute privilege to watch Matthew develop from the quiet 15-year-old kid who competed at his first Paralympics in 2004, into one of the greats of Australian Paralympic sport. He has become an outstanding ambassador for the Paralympic movement, a leader of the Paralympic swim team and our most successful athlete ever."
Cowdrey was appointed as the Team General Manager of the Australian team for the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games to be held in Samoa. In 2017, Cowdrey was preselected to run for the Liberal Party in the Labor-held seat of Colton at the 2018 state election in South Australia.
In 2004, at the Australian Paralympian of the Year Awards, he was named the Young Paralympian of the Year. In 2006, Cowdrey won the Commonwealth Sports Award in the category of male Elite Athlete with a Disability (EAD). Swimming Australia named him their Swimmer of the Year with a Disability for four years in a row, from 2004 to 2007. He was also named to Swimming Australia's All-Star Swim Team in 2006 and 2007. Swimming World Magazine has named him their "World Swimmer of the Year with a Disability." In 2009, he was named the Young South Australian of the Year. In 2011, he was inducted into the Australian Institute of Sport's "Best of the Best". Cowdrey was a finalist for the 2012 Australian Paralympian of the Year. In 2012, The South Australia Aquatic & Leisure Centre decided to name its main competition pool after Cowdrey. The City of Salisbury gave him the keys to the city in 2013. In October 2014, he was inducted into the Path of Champions at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. In 2016, he was awarded Speedo Services to the Australian Swim Team at the Swimming Australia Awards. He is an inductee of the Swimming South Australia Hall of Fame. 
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