Thomas Dominates at Swimming Championships


Thomas dominates at swimming championships

Noemie Thomas competes in the 100-metre butterfly at the Canadian Swim Championships Friday at the Shaw Centre. Sports

Photograph by: Greg Pender, The Starphoenix , The Starphoenix

If Noemie Thomas had her way, she wouldn't actually be competing at the Canadian Swimming Championships at the Shaw Centre this week.

But since she is, she's making the best of her experience with a series of personal-best performances and medals - three gold, a silver and a bronze so far - with more likely to come in the final day of action Saturday.

"Noemie is by far one of the best athletes in Canada, period, in the pool and one of the very highly ranked sprint butterflyers in the world," said her current coach, UBC Dolphins head coach Steve Price.

Thomas, who is ranked 13th in the world in women's 50-metre butterfly, would not be in Saskatoon right now if she had realized her goal of qualifying for the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific Championship teams at the Canadian Olympic trials in April. However, an ankle injury just 11 days before the trials helped derail her chances of making the team. She very nearly qualified anyway, finishing within a fraction of a second of a spot.

The injury, "didn't really allow me to do the same training that I needed to do just to fully prepare myself," said the 18-year-old Richmond, B.C. native. "It ended up being a big disappointment missing the team, especially by as little as I did. It totally changed what my summer looked like. I was supposed to go to Scotland and I was supposed to go to

Australia." One of the youngest competitor at last year's world championships when she was just 17, Thomas finished seventh in the 100-metre women's butterfly, her specialty event.

"Making the final event is a really big deal in the world of swimming," said the 5-foot-4 Thomas. "So I was really happy that I ended up coming seventh. Just being able to handle the heat of the moment and the pressure of being on Team Canada and my first senior national competition, I think I did pretty well."

Normally a butterfly sprint specialist, Thomas is making the most of her opportunity at nationals this week to enter several different events she doesn't normally compete in. She is also swimming in backstroke events and all the relays she could enter. She has dominated her butterfly events, winning the 50 metres Wednesday in a personal-best 26.23 seconds and the 100 metres Friday in 58.19.

"It's really good for training because you learn to get off the blocks a bunch of times," said Thomas. "When the bigger meets come around, then you can just focus on your main events and you're used to doing a lot, so it seems easier."

Thomas started swimming when she was seven, but didn't compete until she was 12, a bit of a late start in swimming by many people's standards. She started as a ballerina when she was only three and kept that up until she started swimming competitively. She credits ballet for helping her in the pool saying, "(ballet) gave me a lot of leg strength and flexibility and discipline. It helped a lot."

She is gearing up for her biggest swim meet of the year and final event of the summer in August - the British Nationals. As a Canadian, she has to hit certain standards to qualify for the British meet and then only so many foreigners are allowed to make it into the finals, but she looks forward to her opportunity.

In the fall, she is headed to the University of California Berkeley on a full-ride scholarship. Thomas looks forward to training under swim coach Teri McKeever, who coached the last woman to win gold at the Olympics in Thomas's specialty event - the 100-metre butterfly. Dana Vollmer won the event in world record time.