By James Candy
Alys Thomas has been forced to retire from competitive swimming.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has called time on a glittering career on the advice of medical professionals due to an ongoing wrist injury.
She first sustained the injury before the 2010 Games in Delhi, but her ambition to make a second Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 has gone.
“Unfortunately, my time in swimming as an elite athlete has to come to an end,” said Thomas.
“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.
“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.
“At the moment I find it hard to drive a car, cut up my food, pick things up and even writing.
“The athlete brain doesn’t really care about that stuff as long as I can swim, but the longer I think about it, the more I understand that is not a healthy way of thinking.
“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.”
Despite the ongoing issues, the 31-year-old reached the summit of the sport. Over an international career spanning 12 years, Thomas represented Wales at four Commonwealth Games and reached World Championships and Olympic finals with Great Britain.
Her defining moment came with Team Wales as she re-wrote Commonwealth Games history on the Gold Coast.
Former Commonwealth champion, Olympic finalist & European medallist @alys_thomas has been forced to call time on her career through injury.
Hear from Alys as she begins to come to terms with the decision. We’re all with you ❤️
— Swim Wales (@SwimWales) October 4, 2022
Her stunning 2:05.45 swim in the 200m butterfly not only clinched the gold medal, but did so in a Games record time as she slashed more than two seconds off her previous best to announce herself on the world stage at the age of 27.
She delivered a rapid 32.74 final length for the crown and Games record to become only the fourth Welsh woman in history to claim Commonwealth gold in the pool.
Thomas also played a starring role in the women’s 4x100m medley relay to help Wales pip England to bronze alongside Chloe Tutton, Georgia Davies and Kathryn Greenslade.
Later that year she clinched two more bronze medals in the 200m fly and women’s 4x100m medley relay at the European Championships in Glasgow.
After becoming the 10th fastest woman in 200m fly history, Thomas had the chance to test herself on the biggest stage.
The Swansea swimmer was less than half a second off a World Championships podium place in Gwangju, and two years later she finally got the chance to realise her Olympic dream as she finished seventh in Tokyo.
She accomplished all of this whilst battling with the injury that eventually denied her a repeat of her 2018 glory at the Birmingham edition of the Games this summer.
Paris was still in her sights despite her injury struggles, but she was forced to take the decision to bring down the curtain on her career, or face losing the function of her wrist and hand.
“I need a functioning wrist and hand in day-to-day life in order to be able to those normal things,” she added.
“If I’m not going to be able to swim, I need to be able to take care of my body and my wrist. I was told in very plain terms that I need to take three to six months off to allow this to settle down in order to have a normal functioning hand and wrist.
“I still have a lot of pain in my wrist at the moment and I was told I have arthritis that you would expect to see in the wrist of a 60-year-old and I’m 31. My management strategies have helped me deal with it over the last two years but it’s got to the point where it’s just not feasible anymore.”
Love this interview from @alys_thomas with @sharrond62 such an amazing swim and great advice for younger swimmers to listen to! Great job, and fantastic medal for team Wales! @AntwhistleG https://t.co/30I3p1U7ca
— DerwentsideASC (@derwentsideasc) April 9, 2018
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.”