Even Matt Cowdrey admitted that he had been caught off guard by his own reaction. The Australian swimming star had just become Australia's greatest Paralympian when he won the 11th gold of his career in the 50 metre freestyle [S9] on Thursday morning [AEST].
Cowdrey went into the final at the London Paralympics equal with runner Tim Sullivan with 10 gold medals and with 19 medals overall. When the race finished, Cowdrey touching in an impressive 25.13 seconds, he stood along as Australia's most decorated Paralympian.
Cowdrey ripped off his goggles and swimming cap from his head and thumped the water with his right hand. It was obvious that this win meant to him, although he later explained some of that had come from simply his excitement at putting together what he felt was pretty close to the perfect race.
The usually unflappable 23-year-old from Adelaide, who was born with a congenital amputation to his lower left arm, struggled for words when asked how much the win meant to him.
"It's hard to describe how that one actually feels," Cowdrey said. "The first one is obviously the most special but aside from that, this one's definitely there. To be able to swim that as well as I did that was the most important thing."
"I started to lose it a little bit out there. Generally I'm pretty composed and I think I nearly let it get to me a little bit but it's something I don't think it will set in properly until we're all done and dusted and I can sit down and relax and start to let it all sink in."
"But 11 gold medals is a lot and ... to be the best at anything is pretty exciting but to be Australia's best Paralympian is humbling and it's a huge honour."
"Generally I'm reasonably composed and I like to pride myself on that but I did let it go a little bit tonight. It's a special one. I enjoy the 50, it's obviously one that I'm really geared towards. It was one of my best starts ever off the blocks tonight and in terms of putting the race together I was really, really stoked with how I swam that."
As Cowley neared Sullivan's mark in London, his career become about if and when he would claim the title. The 23 year old from Adelaide said the media focus had taken its toll.
"As much as we tried to ignore it every time I'd get out of the water it's always been numbers and we're getting closer and getting closer so as much as we tried to ignore that it still gets to you to some extent," said Cowdrey, who has now won three gold and two silver in London.
"So it's good to be able to be able to put that one out of the way and let that relief go a little bit but at the same time we've still got two more swims to go and then the relay on the last night so we've got a lot to work to do."
"The next challenge is that 100 freestyle and 200 individual medley are ones that I've won in Beijing and in Athens so the chance to three-peat is something that's only been done once by a swimmer so that's an exciting prospect."
He has now won three gold and two silvers, with three more events to come.