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"Keep going," Malden Catholic swimmer Thea Sanzone overcomes tragic injury to compete at high level

Malden Catholic swimmer Thea Sanzone overcomes tragic injury to compete at high level
Malden Catholic swimmer Thea Sanzone overcomes tragic injury to compete at high level 04:34

MALDEN - Thea Sanzone was told she would never return to competitive swimming after an accident severely damaged her arm. But four months after her accident she was back in the water.

Thea was entering her junior year at Malden Catholic High School when she fell off a sail boat, and hit the propeller, slashing her arm down to the bone in three places and breaking her elbow.

"She went straight into the hospital. She was in a sling. And I came around the corner and she just looks at me and she goes 'Oh mommy. I am so so sorry.' She said 'I fell off the boat and my arm hit the propeller.' And I just froze," Thea's mom Nora Sanzone told WBZ-TV.

Thea and her family vacation in Fenit, Ireland where she teaches sailing lessons.

"I was still at work, back here in Boston. And I got the call from my wife and she said 'Thea's OK." and I was like what do you mean she's OK? So you kind of knew. You knew that something happened," Thea's dad Fritz Sanzone said.

WBZ's MVP Thea Sanzone in the hospital after her boating accident in Ireland. CBS Boston

Thea spent several weeks recuperating in Ireland, before beginning physical therapy at Massachusetts General Hospital, where doctors told her she would not swim competitively again.

"They knew that, not as high level, and as much as I was swimming. An hour and a half, two hour practices most nights a week. They were like that's a bit of an if," Thea said.

"Her physical therapist was wonderful, but she was like 'You're not getting back in the pool. You are not getting in the pool,'" Nora said.

But, not even four months after her accident, Thea was back in the pool.

Thea Sanzone back in the pool after her injury. CBS Boston

"I saw a girl who came to me at the beginning of the season and she was like 'Coach I still want to do this.' At her first meet she couldn't even dive from the blocks. She not only won the race, but she made her first sectionals cut on her first race back," said Malden swim coach Tricia Argentina.

"I don't see any reason why I shouldn't keep trying. Yes, it might hurt my arm sometimes. At the beginning it was sore, but I was like it's stretching, it's moving, my arm is not broken anymore," Thea said.  

Thea, who is also captain of the team, went on to place sixth in two individual state events that same school year.

"It's incredible. Incredible. Top six in the state. I cried. I cried. I couldn't hold back the tears," said coach Argentina.

Thea Sanzone. CBS Boston

Thea is now a senior at Malden Catholic and she's leading the team through an undefeated season.

"Inspires me everyday. No matter what, keep pushing. But also just outside of my life seeing how much she endured to keep doing something that she loves so much. I think it inspired me in every other aspect of my life," said Thea's teammate Paige Kelly. 

She leaves everyone with this message about her accident.

"Even if it feels like it is going to stop you. You will be able to keep going. You need to put in the effort. Hope will only get you so far, you need to put in the effort yourself, and really keep going. Having a goal to look forward to is really important," Thea said.

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