Olympian Eve is keeping it in the family

I guess it was always likely to happen for Eve?

I mean, if your mum is a legendary Olympic silver and bronze medalist, double Commonwealth gold medalist and World Champion… oh, and your Grandma taught, well, almost everyone of a certain age in south-east Essex how to swim – including yours truly and my kids – then the road to Tokyo 2020 might just have been built by the Romans!

Nevertheless, almost four decades after former Shoebury High School pupil, Sarah Hardcastle – now Sarah Thomas – captured the hearts and imagination of the British public by claiming bronze and silver at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, daughter Eve is heading to the greatest show on earth, representing New Zealand in the 800m and 1500m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay.

The family relocated to New Zealand in 2004, nevertheless, Eve spoke fondly of her spiritual home in Southend; “We arrived in New Zealand when I was three so all of my childhood memories are of Aotearoa but we used to go back to Southend as often as we could to visit mum’s parents,” she told Yellow Sport.

“Grandma, Mum and I had a bond like no other. We were very close so I associate Southend with her. I know grandma is looking down on me proud of what I have achieved so far.”

Eve recalled the first time she realised she had a famous mother: “I was about six, watching some of Mum’s past swims on the telly.

“I still remember the nerves, goosebumps and adrenaline rush of watching them.

“It was then I knew I wanted to try to replicate, and maybe better, her. She inspires me to work hard every day, her achievements were well before her time.”

Eve agreed that swimming was always going to be a likely avenue, adding: “Yeah, this was a very natural pathway for me to take.

“Mum introduced my brothers and I to swimming at a very young age with the focus being on learning an important life skill.

“It was something I took quickly too and enjoyed so it became something I wanted to pursue.

“As you can imagine it was more of a childish dream at first, it wasn’t until I was 16 when I actually started working properly to try to make that dream happen.

“With mum having retired so young both my parents were very conscious of burnout and making sure I enjoyed the process.”

Following in mum’s footsteps – Eve (left) with Sarah (Picture courtesy of Eve Thomas)

Eve insisted that she was never excessively pressured by her parents: “I’ve had a pretty cruisy ride in comparison to mum,” she joked.

“Growing up in NZ swimming isn’t a massive sport so the pressure to perform was minimal, it also helped that no one knew who mum was or the enormity of her achievements.

“The pressure from the games so far has been minimal. I obviously have my own expectations of how I wish to perform.

“As the saying goes ‘pressure makes diamonds’ so the pressure is a good thing just managing it and not letting it get the better of you is key.”

Of course, competing at the Olympic Games is a special achievement and can be used as a positive tool to inspire others: “Representing my country is something I can’t quite put into words, it feels like nothing else,” Eve told me.

“I am so honoured to be given the privilege of wearing the silver fern at the Olympic Games.

“I like to think I’m a good role model for the younger generation of athletes coming through. Hard work and resilience will pay off.”

The 20-year-old insisted a healthy balance is important for any ambitious sportsperson: “Always enjoy what you do, that’s why you do it but remember your dreams won’t work unless you do.”

Mum, Sarah hung up the goggles in 1986 at the age of 17, looking for a little normality after a hectic schedule throughout her childhood. She returned to the sport competitively in 1993 and subsequently went into coaching after the 1996 Olympics. But Eve’s journey has evoked emotions and recollections:

“It’s surreal, to be honest,” she told me.

“Eve only commented on swimming at 17. We didn’t want the teenage burnout that we are all so familiar with – all the training was her choice and responsibility.

“I am nervous and excited for her. The photos and videos she is sharing just bring back fond memories for me.”

Eve Thomas’ Olympic schedule is as follows;

First-round of swims (UK time)
Monday, July 26 – 1500 freestyle – 12:30
Thursday, July 29 – 800 freestyle – 11:00
Thursday, July 29 – 200 relay – 16:30

Brian Jeeves

Email: [email protected]