Australian swimmer Matt Cowdrey is our nation’s greatest Olympian. Returning from the 2012 Paralympics in London with five gold medals, Matt is now a 23-time Paralympic medallist and an inspiring athlete.
Born with a congenital amputation of his lower left arm, Matt’s dedication and strength have taken him to the top in elite sport and it’s impossible not to be motivated by his ‘can do’ attitude. Out of the pool he studies law, interns at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is a regular public speaker in workplaces and schools.
Chatting to be. magazine, Matt tells us what future sporting goals are keeping him focused, his pre-race routine and who inspires him to strive for success.
What is motivating you towards your fourth Olympics in Rio, 2016?
The main thing driving me at the moment is that I know that I can swim faster. I still love training and being around the Australian team, which includes some fantastic people. Swimming still excites me. The sport has given me so much and I would love to lend a helping hand in developing the next generation.
What sporting goals remain for you?
In the next year or two I would love to break the 55 second mark in the 100m freestyle. Long term, I would love to add to my Paralympic medal count in Rio.
Is there one race that you remember more than most?
For me it was winning gold in the 100m freestyle in London. My parents made a mad dash across the globe when one of my sponsors found out that they were unable to attend and paid for their trip. They made it to the pool with minutes to spare, just in time for the race.
How did you spend your time after the London Olympics?
I took three months off training to rest and recuperate, and enjoyed a few opportunities that popped up along the way. I enjoy public speaking and it was good to get around to some companies and schools and share my experience with them. I also had a holiday in America for three weeks and then got back into training. The first few weeks were a real challenge getting back into my routine.
What do you enjoy about studying?
I think it is important to have something to keep your mind busy whilst you are out of training. I am enjoying my degree and studying at the moment. I still have a bit more work to do to finish off my degree and am keeping my options open post my swimming career.
What is your favourite stroke?
Which stroke do you not look forward to in training?
What are the key messages you like to communicate in your public speaking?
I like to talk about the themes of overcoming adversity, the value of teamwork and the importance of goal setting and working towards clear objectives.
Do you have any tips that can help recreational swimmers improve?
When swimming freestyle, make sure your head is on your elbow when you breath. Do not lift your head, as this drops your hips and slows you down!
Who are some up and coming swimmers we should look out for?
I am impressed by Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeown, David McKeown and Brendan Hall.
Who have you met along the way who has inspired you?
Through my partnership with Uncle Tobys and Royal Life Saving, I was lucky enough to meet a young boy, Joseph, from regional NSW and mentor him with swimming lessons as part of the Swim Kids Operation 10,000 campaign, which aims to help thousands of kids learn to swim and survive.
What is your pre-race routine?
Prior to racing in Beijing and London, I had a playlist of U2 songs that helped me relax.
Matt Cowdrey is an Uncle Tobys ambassador. You can read more about his mentoring role with Joseph at swimkids.com.au.