THOMAS Fraser-Holmes had two options and soon came to realise he would regret taking the easy one.
Banned from swimming for 12 months after neglecting to update his “whereabouts” and missing three out-of-competition drug tests, Fraser-Holmes pondered the prospect of hanging up his goggles.
Having represented Australia at the London and Rio Olympics, and after winning gold medals at both the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs, he had already achieved more in his career than 99.9 per cent of people who jump in the water.
“But I didn’t want to retire on those terms,” he told the Newcastle Herald.
“Retirement definitely did come across my mind … but I want to retire on my terms, and hopefully with the Olympic medal that I don’t have.
“That was probably the driving force. I’m still chasing an Olympic medal and that’s the dream that got me back in the pool.”
So after a five-month break, during which time he sampled life “as a normal person”, Fraser-Holmes returned to Newcastle to train at Charlestown pool under the watchful eye of his father, Dennis Holmes.
“Having Dad involved was awesome,” he said.
“I think Dad’s travelled to every single international competition I’ve raced in.
“He’s always been there, and for him to be there, standing on pool deck while I was doing six-kilometre sessions, was something we could bond over. It was also really good to spend time in Newcastle and reconnect with my home town.”
With his national funding withdrawn, Fraser-Holmes found a job as a real-estate sales associate and started counting down the days until he could again compete.
Last month the 27-year-old made up for lost time when he contested the national trials, qualifying for a berth in the Australian team to compete at the World Short-Course Championships in Hangzhou, China, which start next week.
Fraser-Holmes will race in the 400-metre individual medley and 4x200m freestyle relay.
And with the benefit of hindsight, he now accepts that his sanction might have been a lucky break.
“I was suspended for a year, which unfortunately ruled me out of both the Pan Pacs and Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“The timing it meant it’s pretty much two years now since my last international competition.
“But now I feel like I’m in a really good space mentally to launch into the next two years.
“Sometimes the four-year cycle between Olympics can become a bit monotonous.
“Two years out, I can really focus and get the best out of myself.
“So from that perspective, it’s probably been a blessing, although I would love to have gone to the Commonwealth Games to defend my title, and the Pan Pacs as well.”
Fraser-Holmes sees no point in dwelling on his enforced time out.
“My suspension was probably fair,” he said.
“It was by the book. There was no leniency. It was my mistake, and I served my suspension, but I guess the disappointing thing is when people who have actually tested positive to banned substances are shown leniency.”
A strong showing in China could be his launchpad towards Tokyo 2020 and a unique place in history.
“I’m pretty sure no Newcastle swimmer has been to three Olympics,” he said.
“There’s actually not many male swimmers in Australia who’ve been to three Olympics.”
Meanwhile, he intends to put something back into his sport with a coaching session at Coughlan’s Swim Centre, Warners Bay, on December 22. (Details Why Not Me Swim Clinics).
“I want to pass my knowledge onto the next generation,” he said.
“Newcastle has a great history of producing swimmers.
“If I can lend a bit of advice, or provide a bit of inspiration, that’s something I’d like to do.”
I’m still chasing an Olympic medal and that’s the dream that got me back in the pool.THOMAS FRASER-HOLMES