RICHMOND SPORTS AWARDS: Noemie Thomas is Sportsperson of the Year

At 17, Noemie Thomas was the youngest swimmer at the 2013 senior world swimming championships last summer in Barcelona, Spain where she placed seventh in the women’s 100-metre butterfly. -
At 17, Noemie Thomas was the youngest swimmer at the 2013 senior world swimming championships last summer in Barcelona, Spain where she placed seventh in the women’s 100-metre butterfly.
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A diminutive dynamo is The Richmond Review Sportsperson of the Year.

Noemie Thomas, 18, was among many local athletes and volunteers recognized at the 15th annual Richmond Sports Awards and Recognition Banquet Thursday at R.A. McMath Secondary.

The awards is an annual presentation of The Richmond Review, Richmond Sports Council and the City of Richmond, with support from McMath’s leadership students.

An in-depth recap of the award winners begins on Page 21.

At 17, Thomas was the youngest swimmer at the 2013 senior world championships in Barcelona, Spain last July. She emerged from the elite competition seventh in the women’s 100-metre butterfly, a result that helped earn her swimmer of the year honours from Swim Canada.

At only five-foot-four, Thomas is unique in a sport where tall is more often than not the norm. “Honestly, it’s not something I ever think about because it’s not something I can change,” she says. “I’ve swam most of my swimming career as someone on the shorter end, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. I just focus on what I have and what I can control, and get better the way I know how. I focus on comparing myself to myself, not someone who is six-foot-three because that’s just not realistic.”

Though Thomas has been in the pool most of her life, she was also a ballerina. She ultimately gave up ballet for swimming when she realized it wasn’t realistic to try to be world class in both.

“I knew in order to achieve that goal I had to choose,” she says.

Clearly, she made the right choice.

“I love so many things about swimming,” says Thomas. “If I could make it a course for everyone at school I totally would because I think everyone can benefit from it one way or another. You just learn so much about yourself and how to carry yourself in life. The physical part is a love-hate relationship where you push yourself for weeks on end and lack sleep and rest. But it’s the days when you pull something amazing, when you feel you can’t even walk, that makes it really empowering.”

Thomas says swimming also teaches really tough life lessons—like when you work for years with one goal in mind and in the one moment it counts, it doesn’t happen. You’ve got to learn to handle the disappointment.

“You’re expected to look into a camera and act the right way and handle yourself with class,” she says.

“You’ve got to pick up the pieces and keep going. That lesson in itself makes me feel like I can accomplish anything.”

Thomas also leans on family and the friendships she’s developed throughout the years of training for support. She considers them to be extremely important.

“It’s a special bond that is rare and it makes any pain feel better and easier to deal with because of their support,” she says.

This weekend, Thomas is competing in the 51st annual Mel Zajac Junior International Canada Cup Swim Meet at the UBC Aquatic Centre, where she trains as a member of the Pacific Dolphins at Swimming Canada’s High Performance Centre.

Highly recruited, Thomas will be one of the swimmers to watch at the meet as the Canadian team prepares for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland July 23 to Aug. 3 and the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia Aug. 21 to 25. One of her rivals at the meet will be decorated American Missy Franklin, who won six gold medals at the 2013 worlds and four golds and a bronze at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.

Ironically, Thomas will become a teammate of Franklin’s next year at the University of California.

Thomas continually sets high standards, then exceeds them. Her dedication to her sport is both exemplary and inspiring.

In a 2012 interview with The Review, Thomas said “Attitude is everything. Never limit yourself to what others have accomplished. You are your own person and you can do anything you set your mind to.”

Wise words of advice for sure.

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