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Podcast: Paralympic great and aspiring politician Matthew Cowdrey


Australia’s most successful Paralympian, Matthew Cowdrey, wants to bring his intense focus to state politics – but he has to win his seat first.

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Cowdrey is one of the Liberal Party’s great hopes to help wrest back power at the state election next March after 16 years in opposition.

He is running for the marginal Labor-held seat of Colton, up against Labor’s Angela Vaughan, a teacher who is hoping to replace popular retiring member Paul Caica.

Cowdrey retired from swimming in 2015 after winning 23 Paralympic medals, including 13 gold – a product of a singular recipe for success.

He tells PickStar’s Off-Field podcast that his focus in sport was very simple: “My goal was always just to swim as fast as I possibly could.”

He also reveals that while his sports training and performance was the product of relentless routine, he’s also had a broader interest in the world beyond the pool. Before he retired, he did an internship in Washington DC with moderate Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and started working as a management consultant with KPMG.

The four months in Washington showed him the inside of the Amercian political beast and, coupled with connections he had with the Liberal Party in Adelaide, he decided to pursue a political career.

He sees the process of political progression very much like sports training: settling milestones and goals and measuring your performance.

Cowdrey says his views match those of Liberal leader Steven Marshall who, as highlighted by a previous podcast, has also taken a business management approach to politics.

“… from that perspective, I think he and I see things very similar, and it’s been very easy for me to slot into that system,” he said. “The way the he sets KPIs and goals for his team is very similar to how I see the world.”

One of the spurs to his political ambition is the need to provide more spark to Adelaide, particularly in an economic sense.

“Like most people in their late twenties, I’ve reached the point where the majority … of my friends and people that I went to uni with have all left South Australia,” he says. “I can count on one hand probably the people that I was close to at uni that are still here in South Australia.

“So I sort of see the fact that South Australia is reaching a juncture that is really important in the next couple of years.”

Listen to the full interview below.

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