Australia’s most successful Paralympian, swimmer Matt Cowdrey, has been appointed as the Team General Manager of the Australian Commonwealth Youth Games Team for Samoa, in September.
The recently retired triple Paralympian and triple Commonwealth Games representative has jumped at the opportunity to impart his knowledge and experiences on the next generation of Australian sportsmen and women.
Cowdrey, 26, will lead the Australian team for the fifth edition of the Youth Games which will see a team of 120 (82 athletes and 38 officials) from Australia in Apia, Samoa from 7-12 September.
Australia will compete in seven of the nine sports – athletics, boxing, lawn bowls, rugby 7s (men & women), squash, swimming and weightlifting.
Seventy-one Commonwealth nations are expected to take part in the Games which will attract 1,250 athletes and officials (1,000 athletes).
Cowdrey follows in the footsteps of Olympic and Commonwealth gold medallist Petria Thomas who has acted as the Team General Manager on the three previous Commonwealth Youth Teams in Bendigo (2004), Pune (2008) and Isle of Man (2011) and former Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist, Robert Kabbas, who led the team in the inaugural Games in Edinburgh in 2000.
He has a strong affiliation with the Commonwealth Games - winning three gold and a silver across three Games – with double gold in the 50 and 100m freestyle both in world record time in Melbourne in 2006.
Cowdrey answered a call from Australian Commonwealth Games Association CEO Perry Crosswhite and admitted he was thrilled to get the call up.
“Perry asked me if I was interested and I didn’t hesitate – I see it as a huge honour and a great opportunity to lead the team and help the next generation of Australian athletes,” said Cowdrey.
“There is no reason why we won’t see a number of athletes on this team step up to the plate for a home Games in 2018 when the Commonwealth Games come to the Gold Coast.
“If I can play some small part in their development and share my experiences with them then that would mean so much.
“I have been lucky enough and privileged enough to attend three Paralympics and to be part of three Commonwealth Games – including a home Games in Melbourne in 2006 and what an experience that was.
“I have learnt a lot over the past 10 - 12 years and at the end of the day it is all about enjoying your sport and being part of the Australian team and it is my role to make it a fun experience for the whole team.
“It can be daunting being away from home for the first time and among other sports and it is important for everyone to feel inclusive.
“And for them to have everything they need when it comes to game day and that everything runs smoothly.”
Samoa will host the fifth edition of the Commonwealth Youth Games – previous Games have been 2000 in Edinburgh (Scotland), 2004 in Bendigo (Australia), 2008 in Pune (India), 2011 in Isle of Man, 2014 in Apia (Samoa). The 6th Commonwealth Youth Games will be held in St Lucia in 2017.
Cowdrey holds the record for the most gold medals (13) and total medals (23) at the Paralympics by an Australian. He also holds five world records, five Paralympic records and nine short-course world records as well as 21 medals at three world championships, including 16 gold.