During Matthew Cowdrey’s prolific eleven-year para-swimming career, his tremendous talent saw him develop into an influential athlete who played an instrumental role in raising awareness of the Paralympic movement within Australia.
Born with a congenital amputation of his lower arm, Cowdrey clinched his first Paralympic gold medal as a 15-year-old at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games which launched his decade-long domination in the pool.
His strength in the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley events earned him 57 international medals including 23 world championship and three Commonwealth Games gold medals.
By his retirement at the age of 26-years-old, Cowdrey had become the most decorated Australian Paralympian in history, with a total of 23 Paralympic medals including 13 gold across three Paralympic Games. He left para-swimming holding five world records, five Paralympic records and nine short-course world records.
3 Paralympic Games (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012)
23 Paralympic medals
- 2004: 3 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze
- 2008: 5 gold, 3 silver
- 2012: 5 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze
3 Commonwealth Games (Melbourne 2006, Delhi 2010, Glasgow 2014)
- 2006: 2 gold
- 2010: 1 gold
- 2014: 1 silver
Recognition of Cowdrey’s achievements includes:
- 2005: Order of Australia Medal
- 2006: Commonwealth Sports Award for Male Athlete with a Disability
- 2008: Australian Paralympian of the Year
- 2009: Young South Australian of the Year
- 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Swimming Australia’s Swimmer of the Year
- 2009: IPC’s Male Paralympian of the Year
- 2011: Australian Institute of Sport’s Best of the Best inductee
- 2014: Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre Path of Champions inductee
- 2016: Swimming South Australia’s Hall of Fame inductee
He was Australia’s flag bearer at the closing ceremony at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games and has a competition pool at the South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre named after him.