Christian Thiess with the three medals he won in the Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast.
Christian Thiess with the three medals he won in the Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast. Alistair Brightman H

Thiess swims through pain to win

HERVEY Bay's Christian Thiess was recovering after having two lots of surgery to remove three blood clots from his head this time 12 months ago.

The 73-year-old Australian and Queensland swimming champion counted himself as being lucky to be alive following his emergency surgery, a result of a car crash in New Zealand.

Thiess, who was not allowed to swim in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games in case he defected while he was representing Romania, knew then it would take a long time to get back in the swim so to speak – he was right.

He didn't count for having another accident either.

Thiess, a world-class equestrian coach and a former champion international eventer, had targeted the Pan Pacific Masters Games on the Gold Coast to make his come-back.

Things didn't go to plan.

He fell off his bike and broke four ribs three weeks ago and his hopes of taking part in one of his favourite meetings looked doomed.

However, Thiess, who did eventually defect to the West when he was the coach of the Romanian three-day eventing team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, decided he would still attend the event – as a spectator.

While he was there, a friend of his, who was also competing, persuaded him to take a dip and go for a training swim with him.

Thiess did and discovered he could swim the breaststroke without too much agony.

He decided to take the plunge in three events and it proved worth it.

He won gold in the 100m and 400m breaststroke finals and finished second in the 50m final.

While he was thrilled with winning his medals, Thiess said he had been, not surprisingly, in plenty of discomfort at times during his performances.

“I couldn't dive off the block as I would normally do,” he said.

“I had to sort of fall in away from my injured ribs – it wasn't pretty but it turned out to be effective enough.

“I still hurt but I am so glad I went – you cannot beat competing in the Pan Pacs as far as I'm concerned.”



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