European medallist Thomas retires from swimming

4 Oct 2022

Double European medallist and Commonwealth champion Alys Thomas has called time on her competitive swimming career due to an ongoing wrist injury. 

Thomas - who reached the final of the Women's 200m Butterfly at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year - is retiring on the advice of medical professionals after half-a-decade involved with British Swimming teams on the world stage.

The Swansea University athlete made her senior GB debut at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, competing across the 100m and 200m Butterfly events, as well as helping the Women's 4x100m Medley Relay team to a seventh-placed finish. 

A year later, Alys enjoyed a memorable few months, beginning with a stunning gold-medal triumph for Wales in the 200m Butterfly at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in the outstanding performance of her career. A few months later, she would go on to win bronze in that event at the European Championships in Glasgow, picking up another medal of the same colour as part of the Women's 4x100m Medley Relay cohort. 

Further Worlds and European appearances followed for the butterfly specialist - including a brilliant swim that saw her narrowly miss out on the medals in the 200m Butterfly at Gwangju 2019 - before she completed the list of major senior appearances at Tokyo 2020, ultimately ranking seventh in the Olympic final. Her time in international swimming came to a close with Alys again representing Team Wales at this summer's Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. 

Speaking on the tough decision to hang up her racesuit, Thomas said: "Unfortunately, my time in swimming as an elite athlete has to come to an end. What started out as a simple cartilage injury in 2010 has now reached the point where my management strategies are very limited and basically I can’t go on loading that joint anymore.

Alys Thomas
Alys Thomas won 200m Butterfly gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

"I’m feeling a bit sad, that’s the main emotion I’m going through right now. I’ve had a nice break over the last two months but within that, I had a specialist consultant appointment about a long-term wrist injury that I’ve been managing over the last 12 years. I was told that my time in elite sport should come to an end unfortunately.

"I went in with the hope I could squeeze out another 12 to 18 months. My goal was to make Paris in 2024, but it was set out to me that my wrist was not in a good way and if I were to continue loading the joint with the daily grind of training, potentially I would lose function in my hand and my wrist. It’s a lot to take in and a lot to get my head around, it doesn’t sit well with me as an athlete and I want to carry on."

As for reflections on her achievements in the pool, Alys added: "I am so proud that I got to four Commonwealth Games representing Wales, that Commonwealth individual gold and relay bronze, two European medals and two World Championships appearances.

"I go back to the 2019 World Championships, I’ve watched it a handful of times and I was close to that podium. I came fifth but I was a fingertip away, and that pushed me on. There have been times where I see glimmers of what I could have done but I’m not disappointed, I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved.

"I would like to thank my coaches Stuart McNarry and Adam Baker and all the support staff at Swim Wales and Sport Wales for helping me and guiding me over the 12-year journey of ups and downs and never leaving my side."

Alys Thomas Glasgow medal
Alys Thomas won European medals for Britain

British Swimming Performance Director Chris Spice paid tribute to Alys' time in the water, saying: "We wish Alys all the best for her life after competitive swimming and we are here to support her in her next steps. It is always a real shame when an athlete has to make a decision like this due to injury - but Alys can certainly look back on a career where she gave everything in the pool and achieved much. 

"Her two bronze medals at the European Championships in Glasgow in 2018 are an outstanding highlight, on top of her sensational gold-medal winning performance for Wales on the Gold Coast that year. She was an experienced member of our Olympic team at Tokyo 2020 last year and her experience will be missed on international teams in the future."

Swim Wales National Performance Director Ross Nicholas said: “I’d like to congratulate Alys on a fantastic competitive career. Although her time competing hasn’t ended in the way she would have dreamed, Alys should be so proud of what she’s achieved since joining the Swim Wales High Performance environment all those years ago.

"It’s testament to her hard work and resilience that she became a Commonwealth champion and an Olympic and World Championships finalist in the last four years of her career, and she will be remembered as one of our nation’s finest aquatic athletes.

"All of us at Swim Wales are here to support Alys in the next stage of her career after she has dedicated so much of her time and effort to not only achieve success in her own career, but to help and inspire those around her.”

Head over to our Swimming News section here to read about the recent retirements of Sarah Vasey and Stephen Milne