Old Scholar’s Olympic Dreams Realised

Eve is Tokyo bound

When Eve Thomas graduated from St Peters in 2018, much of the St Peters Western (SPW) swimming community knew that wouldn’t be the last we’d be hearing of her name. The young swimmer has been making waves ever since her move across the ditch to train with Dean Boxall and the Olympics have always been in her sights.

“It’s been three and a half years now,” she told us. “That’s a solid chunk being coached by [Dean] and I couldn’t imagine going to the Olympics with any other coach.”

Eve will be competing for the New Zealand swim team despite training at the College. Over the years, the New Zealand national has had to come to terms with having to compete against her Aussie friends at international meets—an occurrence that is tricky, but not a deal breaker.

“New Zealand is my home,” she shared, “so it would feel wrong to swim for Australia, but also a lot of the Australian [swimmers] are my friends. It does make it a little bit interesting!”

“Obviously, I want to win,” the focussed athlete went on. “So, I’m not going to worry about it when we’re in the pool, but not being able to talk to them as friendly as I’d like to poolside is definitely interesting.”

While it’s not yet confirmed who her poolside Aussie friends will be (the Australian Olympic Swim team is set to be announced tonight), Eve is confident that a lot of her SPW training partners will make the cut.

“I think we’ll have a big team [of SPW swimmers representing] this year. There’s a lot of people very, very close to making the [Australian] team—a lot of young guns in our squad!”

Eve’s team-based mindset is surprising for someone who competes in what many outsiders would see as an individual sport. Despite being the first of Dean’s SPW swimmers (and the first St Peters Old Scholar) to be named on an Olympic swim team for the Tokyo Games, her thoughts are still focussed on the achievements of her squad. SPW, to Eve, is more than a club to swim for, it’s a family and a support network—perhaps a mindset that was strengthened during the height of the pandemic last year.

“It’s pretty exciting to see how well the [SPW] squad has developed and I think we handled COVID really well. We all trained through and stayed together as a team, talking on group chats to help each other mentally get through the process.”

Olympics in a pandemic

While excited, Eve is mindful that her first Olympic reality won’t be like the one that she dreamed. That has been the case since the trials started.

“Usually we’d only have one competition to qualify at,” Eve said. “But because we couldn’t all get back to New Zealand because of border restrictions, they had multiple competitions which you could select to be your qualifying competition...you still had to be the fastest in your nation, but you didn’t actually verse each other head-to-head.”

Eve selected the Gold Coast Age Group Nationals, where she swam nine seconds under the 1500m Freestyle Olympic A qualifying time—an effort, she says, is thanks to the pandemic.

“[The pandemic] gave me a whole extra year to get down to the qualifying time, but it did obviously take us all out of the pool for about eight weeks too. I’d like to think that I would’ve been ready [last year], but I definitely feel more prepared having been gifted the extra year.”

To make up for the lost time, Eve’s training since her eight weeks out of the pool has been very focussed.

“We [the SPW squad] just went on a training camp to Darwin, and earlier in the year we went on another one to Mackay. It’s been a long prep, with no break, but it’s been really good. Dean has taken care of us, both physically and mentally.”

Another person looking out for her side-of-pool is her mother, British Olympic swimmer and St Peters employee, Sarah (née Hardcastle).

“Definitely the reason why I picked swimming was because of Mum. She never pushed me to go down that path, but she was definitely an inspiration,” Eve shared. “Obviously how they trained in the 80s is exceptionally different to how we train now but having her insight as to how to do things, just technique and how to mentally manage things, is just so helpful. She just understands it from a different point of view to a normal parent. It’s just such a blessing having her on this journey with me.”

Eve’s Olympic journey will continue with her travelling to New Zealand shortly. She’ll do a staging camp in Auckland with the rest of the New Zealand team and then they’ll fly over to Tokyo a week out from the Games. When asked how she’s feeling about living in the Olympic Village and the whole Olympic experience, Eve said that she’s excited.

“I feel like a lot of the pressure has been taken away, considering there’s not going to be the atmosphere of a typical Olympics. With no crowd, there’s not the pressure of having to perform in front of so many people—I think that’s what creates so many nerves. I’ve done the worst part, which is getting onto the team, now it’s just enjoying the process and enjoying my first Olympics. Just putting my best foot forward and racing as well as I can.”

All the best, Eve. We can’t wait to watch you compete!