Red Hill Sensation Thomas Neill Eyes Paris Glory With the Dolphins

Red Hill Sensation Thomas Neill Eyes Paris Glory With the Dolphins
Photo Credit: Tommy Neill/Instagram

Red Hill swimming sensation Thomas Neill is poised to make his mark at the Paris Olympics, securing his spot in both the 200m freestyle and 200m individual medley events. At just 22 years old, Neill is preparing for his second Olympic appearance, building on a career that has shown promise since his junior days.

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From Rugby to Swimming

Rugby had been his obsession since childhood, consuming his thoughts and adorning his bedroom walls. Posters of his idols – Quade Cooper, Will Genia, and the entire 2011 Reds squad – served as daily inspiration. On the other hand, swimming was a chore he endured with gritted teeth, Neill admitted.

Fate had different plans for the young athlete, steering him away from the rugby field. At 14, Neill shattered both his leg and his aspirations during an intense match. The sickening crack of bone echoed his vanishing dreams of rugby stardom.

Ironically, it was the very sport he did not love (at first) that offered salvation after his injury. The doctor’s prescription for swimming for rehabilitation was met with initial skepticism. Deep down, he had always sensed his true potential lay in the pool, not on the pitch and this became the catalyst for embracing a new passion, as the competitive spirit of swimming began to ignite a fire within him.

Early success and rapid rise

Neill first caught attention in 2019 at the Australian age titles, claiming gold in multiple events including the 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle, as well as the 200m individual medley. This impressive performance earned him a place on the Australian Team for the junior world titles in Budapest, where he continued to excel, securing two silvers and two bronzes.

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Transitioning to senior competition, Neill quickly proved his mettle. At the 2021 Australian championships, he claimed gold in the 800m freestyle and silver in the 400m freestyle, narrowly missing a medal in the 200m freestyle.

Thomas Neill debuts at the Tokyo Olympics

Neill’s Olympic journey began at the 2021 trials in Adelaide, where he secured a spot on the 4x200m freestyle relay team for Tokyo. In his Olympic debut, Neill narrowly missed the 200m freestyle final but played a crucial role in the relay event. Assigned the anchor leg, he delivered the fastest split among his Australian teammates, helping secure a bronze medal for the team.

Following a period focused on his Advanced Business (Honours) degree at the University of Queensland, Neill returned to full-time training in 2023. He contributed to Australia’s bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, and showed improvement in individual medley events.

Neill’s recent performances have solidified his position as a dual-event Olympian for Paris. At the Australian Olympic trials held in the Brisbane Aquatic Centre, he claimed second place in the 200m freestyle with a time of 1:46.02, securing his individual spot. Additionally, Neill will compete in the 200m individual medley in Paris.

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Known for his friendly personality, Neill has gained attention for his post-race quips. After winning bronze in Tokyo, he told TV cameras, “A bronze medal at the Olympics, as Matty Johns said in 1997, it’s better than Lego.” With one Games under his belt and another yet to come, Thomas Neill offers an intriguing preview of Australia’s swimming future.

Published 08-July-2024