European medallists Alys Thomas has been forced to end her competitive swimming career age the age of 31 due to an ongoing wrist injury.
Despite making her international debut at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games when she was 19, Thomas, would have to wait a further seven years for her British debut.
What followed was her greatest period in the sport with a historic Commonwealth 200m butterfly title at Gold Coast 2018 and two bronze medals at the European Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, later that year.
She narrowly missed the World championship podium in 2019 before making her Olympic bow at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games – when she was 30 – and finished seventh in the 200m fly final.
“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,” she said.
“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 and 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.”
Her successes in the sport came despite near chronic wrist struggles, which began more than a decade ago.
“What started out as a simple cartilage injury in 2010 has now reached the point where I have a lot of pain and I was told I have arthritis that you would expect to see in the wrist of a 60-year-old,” she states. “I’m 31.”
“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.
Although the British swimmer is stepping away from competing she hopes to continue working with the sport in some capacity in the near future.
“I started when I was five so I’ve been swimming for almost 27 years and it’s very difficult to let go,” she continues.
“I want to stay in the sport – I can’t go cold turkey on it.”
For more on Alys Thomas’ career and retirement, click here.