A presentation to Denise Thomas of an Orcid which was named after her daughter, 'LC Petria Thomas Butterfly Maiden' at the Orcid show at Ballina RSL club on Sunday.
A presentation to Denise Thomas of an Orcid which was named after her daughter, 'LC Petria Thomas Butterfly Maiden' at the Orcid show at Ballina RSL club on Sunday. Doug Eaton

Petria Thomas makes big splash with orchid

IN an achievement she didn't have to train for, Olympic gold medallist Petria Thomas yesterday had an orchid named in her honour.

The orchid, the LC Petria Thomas Butterfly Maiden, was presented to her mother Denise Thomas at the Far North Coast District Orchid Council's Mother's Day orchid spectacular at the Ballina RSL.

Mrs Thomas described it as a 'lovely' gesture.

She said Petria had been very surprised, but honoured by it.

"Petria never expected anything like this. She's a quiet, unassuming person," Mrs Thomas said.

"I don't know much about orchids but it's her favourite colour. She's always loved yellow."

It's not the first time Petria has been honoured with naming rights.

As a mark of recognition, Mullumbimby dedicated the Petria Thomas Memorial Pool to her.

A former Mullumbimby resident, Petria's swimming career spanned three Olympics.

Despite recurrent illness and injury, she won three Olympic gold medals, was inducted into the Australian Institute of Sport Swimming Hall of Fame in 1996 and was crowned the AIS Athlete of the Year in 2001 and 2002.

In mid 2005, Petria released an autobiography Swimming Against The Tide, in which she described her career, including her experiences with depression and injuries.

Petria, who currently resides in Canberra with her husband and son,  was unable to make it to the orchid-naming ceremony.

Petria had just returned from India, where she had been checking facilities for the upcoming Commonwealth Youth Games in October, Mrs Thomas said.

President of the Far North Coast District Orchid Council Wayne Blanchard said it was a recognition of her achievements in sport.

The orchid, a locally produced hybrid, was donated by El Dorado Orchids in Uralba and is the first orchid of its kind.

Mr Blanchard said the orchid council now planned to name a new orchid after a local dignitary every Mother's Day.

Yesterday's orchid spectacular featured 230 plants, including 30 types of orchid.

The council, which was started by three growers in the 1990's, now has 600 members from Coffs Harbour to the Tweed.


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