Petria Thomas will carry the Olympic flame in April when it passes through Australia on its way to Beijing. AAP
Petria Thomas will carry the Olympic flame in April when it passes through Australia on its way to Beijing. AAP

Petria still carries a flame for swimming and the Olympics

By STEVE SPINKS sport@northernstar.com.au IT takes something special to give Petria Thomas itchy feet.

After all, the former Mullumbimby swimmer has done it all during a glittering career including winning World Championship, Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games gold medals.

But the announcement yesterday that she will be one of 80 torch bearers when the Olympic flame passes through Australia on April 24 on its way to Beijing had her thinking her retirement four years ago may have been a little hasty.

“I look back on how my life has changed since then,” Thomas told The Northern Star.

“It has gone relatively quickly and when I think back it’s still so vivid in my memory.

“At this time of year when there is a big event on I think maybe I should get back in the pool.

“But then I think of the hard work that goes with it and I’m not exactly getting any younger, and I don’t know if the body could have held out.

“That’s physically and mentally because it takes such devotion to be an elite athlete.”

Thomas is among a handful of athletes chosen to carry the flame, including swimmer Ian Thorpe and runner Robert De Castella. Australian of the Year Lee Kernaghan will also be a torch bearer.

“I’ve known about it (the relay) for a while,” Thomas said. “They haven’t finalised the route yet. But it’s a good representation of the community.

“People will be carrying the torch because of different things they’ve done.”

While the 32-year-old still swims once a week for fun, it’s her work at the Australian Sports Commission in Canberra which takes most of her time.

“I’m a sports consultant here and I help administer the sports training grants,” Thomas said.

“I’m behind a desk but I get to speak to the athletes, which is good, and maybe I can help them in some small way.”

The former butterfly queen admitted she would be more than willing to take on a mentoring role with the Australian Olympic team for Beijing.

However, she is yet to be approached by either the Australian Olympic Commission or Swimming Australia.

“I’d love to be involved because I’m fortunate and I’ve got a lot out of swimming and it would be nice to be able to put back in,” Thomas said.

“But until I’m asked I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing.

“But I’m always willing to talk to younger athletes and pass on my experience.”



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