Petria Thomas captured the hearts of millions of Australian with her gold medal winning performances at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Her triumphs capped an illustrious twelve year swimming career that generated headlines and accolades throughout the Australian, Commonwealth and World Swimming nations.By the time she retired from competitive swimming in 2004 Petria Thomas had amassed eight Olympic medals (three gold, four silver, one bronze), seven World Championship medals (three gold, two silver, two bronze) and had set two Olympic and two World records.
Although she is remembered as an outstanding butterfly swimmer, with world titles in the 100 and 200 metres in 2001 and Olympic gold in the 100m and silver in the 200m at Athens in 2004, she was also a powerful freestyle swimmer and a member of the gold medal winning 4×100 relay team and silver medal 4×200 team at Athens.
She also swan the butterfly leg in the victorious Australian medley relay teams at the 2001 world titles and 2004 Olympics.
That record would have earned her Hall of Fame status under any circumstances, but it is even more remarkable because of the personal battles she had to fight along the way. She suffered continuous bouts of deep depression, culminating on one occasion in an overdose. It was a problem that was to plague her for most of her competitive career, but was compounded by repeated shoulder injuries which required three shoulder reconstructions and lengthy periods of rehabilitation.
Almost from the time she emerged as a club swimmer in northern NSW to earn a scholarship to the AIS, she was cast in the shadow of one of Australia’s all-time great butterfly swimmers in Susie O’Neill.
She overcame all the challenges to mount the dais three times as world or Olympic champion and many more times as a member of Australian relay teams. An outstanding and greatly admired Australian Athlete.