Ironwoman’s heroic efforts ‘saves’ competitor’s life
Maroochydore lifesaver Ella Brown says she "didn't think twice" when sacrificing her chances to qualify in the Nutri-Grain ironwoman series to help a fellow competitor in distress.
Twenty-four-year-old Brown demonstrated how "rescue ready" the ironwomen and ironmen are, stopping mid-race when she saw fellow competitor Lilly O'Sullivan (Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park) needed help floating on her back in the swim leg of the final Ironwoman race on Sunday.
"It was in the first swim of the M-shape and I was about 5-10m away from the first can when I noticed a swimmer floating off to the left-hand side," Brown said.
"I turned the can and looked and saw the competitor (O'Sullivan) floating on her back and I yelled out 'are you OK' and I got no response, so I immediately went and put my arms underneath her to keep her head above water and signalled for help to the nearby water safety IRB crew.
"I went with Lily in the IRB back to the beach and thankfully she came around before we got back in and I just reassured her that she would be OK".
When questioned about the decision to abandon her own chances in the Nutri-Grain ironwoman Series, Brown said it didn't even require a decision.
"Lily's safety was far important that any race or result, I didn't think twice," she said.
"We are lifesavers and when needed that is what we do and I would hope that someone else would do the same for me if ever I was in a similar situation."
Maroochydore coach Nathan Greig believed it "100 per cent" saved O'Sullivan's life.
"She was concerned for the girl's welfare and realised something wasn't right and held her up," he said.
"Obviously, it's a pretty emotional thing to go through and she held it together really well."
He was proud of Brown's courage and efforts.
"It's fantastic and she's done the right thing," he said.
"I'd expect her to do that and she's that kind of person and they all are, it's a very tight knit group.
"An athlete's wellbeing is always more important than a race and it just shows the character of the athletes in the sport.
"It's a sport but they obviously do a lifesaving component as well and it's just bred into them from a young age."
O'Sullivan said she was extremely grateful for the decision and action of Brown and the medical support crew.
"All I remember is getting near the first can with the lead girls in my swim and feeling a pain in my head and the next thing I remember is being in the IRB and Ella telling me that I was going to be OK," O'Sullivan said.
"I really hate to think what might have happened if Ella didn't stop, I can't thank her enough.
"I am disappointed that it ended my race, but it makes me hungrier to get back out there and aim for next year's series."
Surf Life Saving Australia national sport manager Wayne Druery said the incident highlighted the very essence of the movement.
"Ella Brown's actions today epitomise everything our sport and movement is about," he said.
"Ella sacrificed her own race to help a fellow competitor in the true spirit of what surf lifesaving is about, she is an outstanding role model and deserves to be acknowledged."