Speakers Profile - Petria Thomas

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Petria Thomas has become one of Australia's most successful female swimmers. Her three gold medals and one silver medals at the Athens Olympic Games has brought her Olympic medal count to 8. Only the great Dawn Fraser and Susie O'Neill have equaled that number. After United States swimmer Michael Phelps, Petria was the most successful athlete at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

Petria Thomas was born in Lismore in New South Wales on 25th August 1975. Petria is the epitome of hard work and tenacity in Australia's sporting culture. Since making her debut for the Australian Swimming Team in 1993, she has undergone an array of career threatening encounters, including 3 shoulder reconstructions and an ankle operation. Yet, she has continued to shine as the nation's leading female performer in the pool.

Petria's first shoulder reconstruction was performed not long after the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. In May 1999, she underwent surgery on her other shoulder and again went through an intense rehabilitation to prepare herself for the Sydney 2000 Olympics

All the hard work and determination paid off for Petria in Sydney at the 2000 Olympic Games. She won 3 medals in all, a bronze in the 200m Butterfly and silver in both the women's 4 x 200m freestyle relay and the 4x 100m medley relay.

Her results at the 2001 and 2002 Australian Championships were extraordinary. She easily won the 50m, the 100m, and the 200m Butterfly events, and also won medals in the 100m and 200m freestyle – events which, she has not normally competed in. Petria currently holds the Australian and Commonwealth records in 50m and 100m Butterfly, both long and short course. Following the 2001 Australian Championships, Petria had to undergo surgery again. After reconstruction to her ankle, she again hit the training pool and is determined as ever.

If Petria's achievements in 2001 were extraordinary then 2002 has been even better. At the Australian Championships held in Brisbane in March she qualified for a record 9 events for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Manchester later in the year.

At the Manchester Commonwealth Games in July, Petria won an astounding 5 Gold Medals, 1Silver, and 1 Bronze Medal. She also broke the Australian and Commonwealth Record in the 50m Butterfly swimming a time of 26.66s. Petria became the first and only female to win a Gold Medal in the same event at 3 successive Commonwealth Games when she won the 100m Butterfly.

Only a week later, at the World Short Course Championships (Moscow) she won gold in the 200m butterfly, breaking Susie O'Neill's old record by 0.41 seconds. She later helped destroy the 1999 Australian record in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay with Elka Graham, Giaan Rooney and Lori Munz.

At the Pan Pacific Championships in Japan 24-29th August 2002, Petria added another 5 medals to her total. Winning gold in the 200m butterfly and the 4 x 100m freestyle and topping off with gold in the 4 x 100m medley relay in which Petria unleashed a swim which is the fastest butterfly split recorded in a relay (56.94sec). She won silver in the 200m butterfly and the 4 x 200 freestyle relay.

After winning the 100m Butterfly and the 50m Butterfly at the 2003 Australian Championships, Petria took the huge decision to again have her troublesome shoulder reconstructed. She is determined to win a Gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, and wanted to give herself the best opportunity.

He first week back to competition saw her win 2 events at the Qantas skins, and 3 events at the Melbourne World Cup. Her performances amazed everyone, especially her victory in the distance freestyle at the Skins, and her Commonwealth record in the 50m Butterfly.

During her career, Petria won 3 Olympic Gold Medals, 3 World Championships, 9 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals, 13 Australian Championships, and 3 Pan Pacific Gold Medals.

2005 saw the release of Andy Shea's biography of Petria. “Petria Thomas - Swimming Against the Tide” A truly inspirational story of courage and determination swimming champ Petria opens her heart about overcoming debilitating physical setbacks as well as severe depression in her quest for Olympic gold.

“Petria Thomas won the hearts of millions around the world with her triple-gold-medal-winning triumph at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. Having overcome the pain and anguish of three shoulder reconstructions and two ankle reconstructions over the length of her glittering 12-year career, Petria is admired and respected for her grit, determination and steely will to win. But there's more to the Queen of Butterfly than meets the eye, and here for the first time is the full and authorised story of Australian swimming's golden girl: her battle against severe depression, her cries for help that almost ended her life, and the extraordinary determination that overcame these physical and emotional pressures to reach the pinnacle of her career.”