For any Canadian high performance swimmer there is no greater thrill than representing the Maple Leaf.
Noemie Thomas reached those heights at a young age and is looking to get back there this year. Thomas will be in action at the Team Canada Trials from Wednesday to Saturday at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. She’ll be looking to regain a spot on the national team for this year’s Pan Am Games and FINA World Championships after a setback in 2014.
Last year at the Canadian team trials for the Pan Pacific Championships and Commonwealth Games, the 19-year-old butterfly specialist appeared to be a shoo-in to make both teams. She was a Canadian record holder and world championship finalist.
But an ankle injury a few weeks earlier had disrupted her preparations. In a sport which divides racers by hundredths of seconds, Thomas simply didn’t have enough time to recoup her lost training and trips to Australia and Scotland wouldn’t appear on her calendar.
But a successful college season has put Thomas back on track. The women’s 100-m butterfly promises to be one of the star events at the Team Canada Trials. Only 0.02 seconds separates the personal best times of Canadian record holder Katerine Savard and Thomas.
“I feel like I’m going into these trials as almost a new person,” said Thomas. “Last year I put too much pressure on myself and should have got past the the injury. So I’m trying to have a more easy going approach and the keep the focus on the right elements. I feel confident.”
In the fall, Thomas was recruited by the University of California Berkeley. Again it was her great attitude which assured her rookie season on the NCAA circuit would be a success. Her highlight was helping Cal to gold in the 4×50-yard medley relay at the NCAA Championships.
In January she also won gold in the 100-fly at the Pro Swim Series stop in Austin, Tex.
“It’s been very different and I’ve learned so much,” said Thomas, who studies psychology. “A new country, a new school and going to university for the first time. There was some anticipation going in because I didn’t know what life would be like in and out of the pool.”
But Thomas was determined this new experience would be a success.
“This is a high-calibre team and I was really excited to be put into that,” she said. “I understood going in that the way I did things were not necessarily going to be the same. I realized there were different approaches and I needed to be open to those options.”
From the hopes of a school to the hopes of a nation, Thomas is ready for her biggest challenges yet.