Petria Thomas (AUS)
Honor Swimmer (2010)
FOR THE RECORD: 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver (200m butterfly); 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver (4x100m medley relay, 4x200m freestyle relay)), bronze (200m butterfly); 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay), silver (200m butterfly); 1998 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (200m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay), bronze (100m butterfly, 4x200m freestyle relay); 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay); 2002 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (25m): gold (200m butterfly), silver (100m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle relay), bronze (4x200m freestyle relay); 1994 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: gold (100m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay); 1998 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: gold (100m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay), silver (200m butterfly); 2002 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: gold (50m, 100m, 200m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay, 4x100m freestyle relay); 2002 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (200m butterfly, 4x100m medley relay), silver (100m butterfly).
Petria was held in such high regard for her swimming accomplishments that her hometown pool in Mullumbimby, New South Wales was named after her. But her swimming career was a long struggle with many hardships before she was decorated as Australia’s greatest Olympic swimmer along with legendary Dawn Fraser and Susie O’Neill. Despite three shoulder injury surgeries and bouts with depression, she won eight Olympic medals in three Olympic Games. Early in her career, she battled Suzie O’Neil and Inge de Bruijn in the butterfly events.
She was 20 years old at her first of three Olympic Games during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where she won a silver medal in the 200m butterfly. Swimming at the Australian Institute of Sport, she had already had excruciating shoulder problems leading later to two shoulder operations as well as bouts of severe depression from the stress of training and keeping up with school work.
But Petria proved in life to be the champion she was in the pool. She competed in the 1998 Commonwealth Games, winning gold medals, and the 1998 World Championships winning silver medals. At the 2004 Athens Olympic Games she won three gold medals in the 100m butterfly and 4x100m freestyle and medley relays. As the team veteran at age 28 in Athens, when she was just touched out .3 seconds by Poland’s Otylia Jetzejezak in the 200m butterfly, a swimmer she had earlier beaten in the 100m butterfly. All totaled, she won eight Olympic medals, seven World Championship long course medals, nine World Championship short course medals, twelve Commonwealth and five Pan Pacific medals. In 2001, she was crowned the AIS Athlete of the Year and the World Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year as Australia’s premier butterfly swimmer. In 2005, she released her autobiography Swimming Against the Tide, where she described her career including her experiences with depression.