IT TOOK Matt Cowdrey all of about 10 minutes after becoming Australia's greatest Paralympian to reconsider his future. Until then, he had just about made up his mind that London would be his final Paralympic Games.
At 23 and competing in his third Games, he believed he would go on to the 2014 Commonwealth Games and then call it a day.
But that all changed in the moments after he swam what he regarded as close to the perfect race to win the 50 metre freestyle (S9) on Wednesday. (S9 swimmers are those with weakness, limb loss or movement difficulties in one arm or leg.)
With 11 gold medals so far - one more than the runner Tim Sullivan - and a sudden breakthrough in times for the one-lap dash, Cowdrey's fire was again stoked.
''I've been talking to you [reporters] about how hard it is to walk away and I tell you what, the chances of that happening now are pretty damn low,'' Cowdrey said.
Cowdrey, who was born with a congenital amputation to his lower left arm, has won 20 medals in total, which includes seven silver and two bronze, since Athens in 2004. But, as he nears the end of his law and media studies degree and having worked at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, he has been looking towards a new stage of his life.
When asked if he was content with his swimming achievements or still had the desire to do more, Cowdrey said: ''Content is a word that you reach once you've achieved things [and] you don't think you can go any further - and that's definitely not the case here. There's still challenges for me, not just over the next couple of days but into the future as well.
''So to be able to keep getting quicker in the 50 [metres] is exciting … getting into the sport, that's what I always wanted to do, just push myself and keep swimming quicker and quicker, whether that was at a local meet or at the Paralympics or whether it was at 12-and-unders midgets dash it's the same thing - trying to push yourself and see how fast you could possibly be and to keep improving.
''I've been sitting on that 50 freestyle for a while, just taking 0.01 off. And then to come out and to take nearly 0.2 off, that's a pretty exciting swim for me. So to be able to keep progressing and to keep improving that's another thing that's spurring me
on. I had pretty much ruled out Rio. I definitely want to go to Glasgow. I definitely want to keep pushing myself further and two years is a short time … it's going to be exciting.''
Cowdrey's change of attitude had Australia's rising star Ellie Cole jumping for happiness.
''Matt's been a hero of mine since I've been a little girl,'' Cole said. ''I remember being quite intimidated by him when I first came onto the scene, just because he was the god of the team.
''But then he moved to the Australian Institute of Sport and I got to live with him for a while and I got to know him really well. He's such a great role model and he's a guy who does everything right for his swimming and everything he does is for the benefit of swimming.
''I think it's really dramatically changed the Paralympic team into quite a professional swimming team and I have to admit most of that goes down to Matt Cowdrey …
''Just knowing that he could be in the sport for another four years gives me a lot of joy. Matty's one of these people who just doesn't say things for the hell of it so I think he's giving it some serious consideration.''
Australia's chef de mission, Jason Hellwig, said Cowdrey's potential change of heart was ''good news for us. I'd have him on any team''.
''It'll be terrific to have him there. I've got no doubt that if he swims through to Rio, he'll swim very well there,'' he said.
''It's a tough endurance test, swimming, and to have been so successful now at three Games it's more than a decade of unbelievably hard work and focus from him.
''He's a massive competitor. He loves it, he really enjoys getting in that pool and racing head to head with his rivals. And he also really enjoys the environment of the Paralympic team and whatever decision he makes, we'll support him. I know he loves it but I also know how tough it is at the top.''
Before claiming the 50 freestyle title - his third gold of the meet - Cowdrey gave an insight into his ambition.
''That's how my parents raised me - to always strive to be the best person, the best athlete. Whatever I am I wanted to be my best. So I've never wanted to be average in anything.
''I don't think that's acceptable, to be honest. No matter what I do I want to leave a legacy … to change things and leave things in a better shape than they are.''