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Matthew "Matt" John Cowdrey, OAM[2] (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.[3]

Matthew Cowdrey
120411 - Matthew Cowdrey - 3b - 2012 Team processing.jpg
2012 Australian Paralympic Team portrait of Cowdrey
Personal information
Full name Matthew John Cowdrey
Nationality  Australia
Born (1988-12-22) 22 December 1988 (age 28)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Height 182 cm (6 ft 0 in)[1]
Sport Swimming
Strokes Freestyle, Backstroke, Butterfly, Medley
Classifications S9, SB8, SM9
Club Marion



Cowdrey was born on 22 December 1988[4] with part of his arm missing[5] due to a congenital amputation.[4] He attended Endeavour College[6] and played basketball when he was younger.[7] 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.[7] In 2011, he also represented Kawana Waters Swimming Club.[8] As of 2013, he swims for the Marion Swimming Club.[7]

In April 2015, Cowdrey graduated from the University of Adelaide with a double degree in law and media.[9][10] In 2013, he undertook a three-month internship with US congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.[11] In 2015, at the time of his retirement he was working for KPMG in Adelaide.[10]

Cowdrey at the 2012 London Paralympics


Cowdrey competes in the International Paralympic Committee's S9 (freestyle, backstroke and butterfly) SB8 (breaststroke) and SM9 (individual medley) classifications;[12] which comprise swimmers with a severe leg weakness, swimmers with slight coordination problems and swimmers with one limb loss.[13] Cowdrey started swimming when he was five years old. He started competitive swimming in 1994.[4] He broke his first Australian open record when he was eleven years old.[4] He set his first world record at the age of thirteen.[4]


Cowdrey was one of the youngest Australian competitors at the 2004 Paralympics.[5] 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,[12] for which he received a Medal of the Order of Australia,[2] 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.[12]


At the 2005 Australian Open, Cowdrey won seven gold medals while setting two world records, and won two bronze medals.[14]


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.[14] 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.[14]

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.[4] He was Australia's only male non-relay individual swimming gold medalist in the 2006 Commonwealth Games.[14] At the 2006 World Championships, he set three world records while winning three gold medals, two silver medals and bronze.[4] 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.[14] These Games had limited opportunities for Paralympic swimmers as not all events were on the event programme.[15]

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.[16]


Cowdrey, gold medallist. at the 2012 London Paralympics

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.[12] He picked up three silver medals in the 100 m butterfly S9, 400 m freestyle S9 and 4×100 m freestyle relay events.[12] In Beijing, he set five world records.[4] He also carried Australia's flag during the closing ceremonies for the Games.[7]


At the 2009 IPC Short Course World Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Cowdrey won seven gold medals and two silver medals.[7][16] In 2009, he competed in his first international competition against able-bodied swimmers in Tucson, Arizona.[17]


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.[18] 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.[19][20]


In April 2011, he participated in the Telstra Australian Swimming Championships.[21] In July 2011, he participated at the Australian Short Course Championships.[8] In August 2011, he participated in the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships.[8] In October 2011, he participated at the 2011 Swimmeroo QLD Long Course.[8] 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.[22] 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.[22]


Cowdrey at the 2012 London Paralympics

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.[12] 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.[23]


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.[24] 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.[25][26][27][28]


At the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Cowdrey won a silver medal in the 100 m Freestyle S9.[29]


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."[3] 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."[3]

Post-swimming careerEdit

Cowdrey was appointed as the Team General Manager of the Australian team for the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games to be held in Samoa.[30] 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.[31]


Cowdrey receiving a special presentation at the 2012 Australian Paralympian of the Year ceremony, in recognition of his achievement of winning more Paralympic gold medals than any other Australian

In 2004, at the Australian Paralympian of the Year Awards, he was named the Young Paralympian of the Year.[14] In 2006, Cowdrey won the Commonwealth Sports Award in the category of male Elite Athlete with a Disability (EAD).[14] Swimming Australia named him their Swimmer of the Year with a Disability for four years in a row, from 2004 to 2007.[14] He was also named to Swimming Australia's All-Star Swim Team in 2006 and 2007.[14] Swimming World Magazine has named him their "World Swimmer of the Year with a Disability."[14] In 2009, he was named the Young South Australian of the Year.[32] In 2011, he was inducted into the Australian Institute of Sport's "Best of the Best".[33] Cowdrey was a finalist for the 2012 Australian Paralympian of the Year.[34] In 2012, The South Australia Aquatic & Leisure Centre decided to name its main competition pool after Cowdrey.[35] The City of Salisbury gave him the keys to the city in 2013.[36] In October 2014, he was inducted into the Path of Champions at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.[37] In 2016, he was awarded Speedo Services to the Australian Swim Team at the Swimming Australia Awards.[38] He is an inductee of the Swimming South Australia Hall of Fame. [39]


  1. ^ "Matthew Cowdrey". Uncle Tobys. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Cowdrey, Matthew John". It's an Honour. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c "Australia's most successful Paralympian announces his retirement". Australian Paralympic Committee News. 10 February 2015. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Matthew Cowdrey". Australian Paralympic Committee. Retrieved 6 February 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Halloran, Jessica (21 September 2004). "Australian teenagers enjoy big day in pool". The Age. Melbourne, Victoria. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Mawson Lakes student wins 2 Commonwealth Golds". Varsity Lakes. 31 March 2006. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Matthew Cowdrey". Swimming Australia. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Matthew Cowdrey: LAtest Results". Australia: Swimming Australia. 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  9. ^ "Dual university and sport career ensures bright future for Matthew Cowdrey". Australian University Sport. 13 February 2015. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Homfray, Reece (13 February 2015). "Golden goal proved ultimate motivation for champion South Australian swimmer Matthew Cowdrey". The Advertiser. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  11. ^ "Paralympian Matt Cowdrey takes up internship with US congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Washington". The Advertiser. 22 December 2012. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Results for Matthew Cowdrey from the International Paralympic Committee. Retrieved 6 October 2012.
  13. ^ Buckley, Jane (2011). "Understanding Classification: A Guide to the Classification Systems used in Paralympic Sports". Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Matt Cowdrey". South Australia, Australia: South Australian Amputee Golf Association. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  15. ^ "Pools of positive thought". The Age. Melbourne, Victoria. 9 March 2006. Retrieved 12 November 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Matthew Cowdrey". International Paralympic Committee website. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  17. ^ Cowrey, Matthew (1 June 2009). "Presentation by Matthew Cowdrey OAM, SA Young Australian of the Year 2009 and distinguished Paralympian" (PDF). Adelaide, South Australia: Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  18. ^ Wake, Rebekka (September 2010). "Golden Glow Over Australian Swimming". Australian Paralympian. Australia: Australian Paralympic Committee. 2. 
  19. ^ "IPC Swimming World Records Long Course" (PDF). International Paralympic Committee. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  20. ^ "Cowdrey sets record in golden run". ABC News. 7 October 2010. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  21. ^ "Meet Results: 2011 Telstra Australian Swimming Championship". IMG Sports Technology Group. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  22. ^ a b "Sport News". 2011-12-12. Retrieved 2012-01-01. 
  23. ^ Foreman, Glenn (6 September 2012). "Matt Cowdrey becomes Australia's greatest Paralympian with 11th gold medal". News Limited Network. Retrieved 5 September 2012. 
  24. ^ Morgan, Kym (11 June 2013). "Rio Paralympics bid to build Matt Cowdrey's legend". Adelaide Now. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  25. ^ "Golden start for the Australian swim team in Montreal". Swimming Australia News. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  26. ^ "A world record and more gold medals for Australia in Montreal". Swimming Australia News. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  27. ^ "Men's relay team back it up in Montreal". Swimming Australia News. 16 August 2013. Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  28. ^ "Twenty-seven medals for the Australian swim team in Montreal". Swimming Australia News. 19 August 2013. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  29. ^ "Commonwealth Games: Recap all of the silver medals Australia has won in Glasgow". ABC News. 25 July 2014. Retrieved 25 July 2014. 
  30. ^ "Matt Cowdrey appointed as Team General Manager 2015 Australian Commonwealth Youth Games for Samoa" (PDF). Australian Commonwealth Games Association website. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  31. ^ Richardson, Tom (28 March 2017). "Internal tensions escalate as Libs block challenge to Gardner". InDaily. Retrieved 1 May 2017. 
  32. ^ "What matters in Australia today: Four perspectives". Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre. 1 June 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  33. ^ Minister announces Australian Institute of Sport Best of the Best Athletes
  34. ^ "Freney favourite to win top Paralympian". Australian Associated Press. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  35. ^ Williamson, Brett (26 September 2012). "Cowdrey honoured with Marion pool naming". ABC News. Retrieved 6 August 2013. 
  36. ^ Schultz, Duane (12 September 2013). "Salisbury swimming legend Matthew Cowdrey given key to the city at Endeavour College". News Review Messenger. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  37. ^ "Olympic and World Champion swimmers inducted into Path of Champions". Swimming Australia News. 21 October 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  38. ^ "Swimming Australia Gala Dinner 2016". Swimming Australia website. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  39. ^ "SwimmingSA Hall of Fame" (PDF). Swimming South Australia. 

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Wang Xiaofu
Daniel Dias
World Disabled Swimmer of the Year
2007, 2008
Succeeded by
Daniel Dias
Daniel Dias