AFTER suffering a heartbreaking injury last year, stand-up paddleboarder Verity Thomas showed grit and determination to claim a remarkable bronze medal at the 2023 ICF World Championships in Thailand.
The Islander, who has only been racing competitively since 2019, “was speechless” crossing the finish line in third place of the 40+ in the technical race.
There was genuine concern in the 41-year-old’s mind, following her torn calf suffered while competing in Poland, that she would never fully recover.
Fast forward a year and Thomas was not only competing, but excelling in the sweltering Pattaya heat.
“I was really tense when I was competing in Poland,” she said.
“There was a feeling of wanting to succeed so badly that things started to go wrong.
“Heading to Thailand was a completely different feeling.
“I was much more relaxed and just happy to be able to compete.”
First up for Thomas came the sprint race, in which she secured a fourth-place finish in the “B Final” to take an overall 12th.
Despite a lack of tournament practice and recovering from injury, there was still an air of disappointment with the sprint result for Thomas.
The saving grace was that the technical race was still to come, a discipline which the Public Protection Unit detective thrived in.
Navigating a course with buoys across a 1km distance, the bronze medallist saw an opportunity to exploit.
“My biggest asset proved to be how effectively I was turning around the buoys,” Thomas added.
“I took some risks with my technique to make up some spots on the turns and they paid off in a big way.
“Once I made the ‘A Final’ my main aim was to finish top ten.
“There were 12 of us in the race and I was desperate to finish higher than I managed in the sprint.
“On one of the buoy turns, I made up two spaces and found myself in third place.
“Only then did I feel some pressure and nerves. But I convinced myself not to look behind and see how far the gap was. I was fixated on what was in front of me and to finish third was incredible.
“To know I was able to stay mentally strong in that moment was something I was really proud of.
“It is a very expensive trip to make, and it was all self-funded. So when you are able to come home with a result like that, it makes it all worthwhile.”
While looking to continue her own competitive endeavours in the sport, there is a keen eye on future generations also.
Her 12-year-old son shares an early passion for stand-up paddleboarding and, with a potential space for the discipline in the 2032 Olympics, the sky is the limit.
Thomas continued: “Lots of people fell in love with paddleboarding during the pandemic. It was a very safe way to get exercise and remain socially distant.
“While some, like me, have pressed into the more competitive side of the sport, there is still room for it to grow over here.
“SUP has really grown in popularity over recent years and there is a real hope that it could be a part of the Olympics in nine years.
“My son is really enjoying it and in nine years’ time, he would be a great age to push towards that goal.
“The younger generations are the future of this sport and an opportunity like that I’m sure, would drive an Islander’s hunger for competition.”