Petria Thomas is an Australian swimmer and Olympic
In 1993, at the age of 17, Thomas won a bronze medal in the 200m butterfly at
the World Championships. She followed this with two gold medals, in the 100m
butterfly and 4x100m freestyle in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria,
Canada. However, she then struggled for two years, until making a comeback at
the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. She won a silver medal, finishing second to fellow
Australian Susie O'Neill.
Despite being plagued by a shoulder injury, Thomas repeated her 1994
Commonwealth Games effort at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur. She also won a
bronze in the 100m butterfly and a silver in the 200m at the World Championships
in Perth, Australia, the same year. She had similar success at the Sydney
Olympics in 2000, winning three medals - bronze in the 200m butterfly, silver in
the 4x100m medley, and silver in the 4x200m freestyle.
Thomas had always struggled to surpass O'Neill, despite being talented in her
own right. However, after the 2000 games, O'Neill retired, and Thomas, despite
battling recurring injuries, decided to continue. The decision paid off when she
won three gold medals at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. She won
both the 100m and 200m butterfly, and then was part of the winning 4x100 medley
relay team. She was also part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team, which
completed the race first, but they were disqualified for jumping into the pool
in celebration before the other competitors had completed the race.
At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, Thomas won five gold, one silver and one bronze
medals. While being one of the pinnacles of her career, her victory also made
her the first female swimmer ever to win the same event at three consecutive
Commonwealth Games - the 100m butterfly. She followed this with three gold and
two silver medals at the 2002 Pan Pacific Games in Yokohama, Japan. At the
short-course championships in Moscow, Russia, Thomas managed to win another gold
medal in her pet event, the 200m butterfly. However, injuries forced her out of
competition soon afterwards, and she had to spend much of 2003 recovering from
yet another shoulder reconstruction.
In 2004, Thomas made another comeback at the Olympic selection trials in Sydney.
She broke the Commonwealth records in the 50m and 100m butterfly, set new
personal best times in the 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle and narrowly missed
the world record in the 200m butterfly.
After having missed out on first place in 1996 and 2000, Thomas finally managed
to achieve gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. She won the
individual 100m butterfly, and was a part of two world record setting teams in
the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays. She was subsequently chosen to
carry the Australian flag at the closing ceremony. Thomas announced her
retirement from competitive swimming at the conclusion of the games.
In mid 2005, Petria released her story, titled "Swimming Against The Tide". It
tells of the depression, the highs and lows of what was a marvellous career by
such a courageous and worthy person.