Golden dreams

Brittany Elmslie
Brittany Elmslie Contributed

BRIAN Stehr was not on the pool deck in London when Noosa's Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger helped Australia secure its first gold medal of the Olympics - but his heart was certainly there.

The Peregian Springs swimming coach was glued to his TV on the morning the two girls he once coached powered to victory in the 4x100m freestyle relay. It was Stehr who moulded them into the quality athletes who combined with Cate Campbell and Alicia Coutts to beat hot favourites the Netherlands and the US, and set an Olympic record in the process.

"I'm over the moon," Stehr said as the success sank in.

"I'm like everyone else in Australia, but maybe just up a notch or two up.

"It's so amazing and satisfying ... I couldn't be happier for the girls.

"I'm so happy they've reached the pinnacle of their sport."

Stehr was one of the first to offer his congratulations, sending the girls text messages soon after their win.

"I'm not sure if or when they will get it though," he said.

Stehr trained Schlanger in his junior squad when she was 12.

"I said to her that she should think about a serious swimming career, because I thought she was special," he recalled.

"But she was also in Little Athletics at the time and disappeared for two years.

"She came back when she was 14 and said she was ready to go."

Former Noosa Heads nipper Elmslie came under Stehr's care for about two-and-a-half years when she was 15.

Her family moved to Brisbane at the end of last year.

Stehr said the gold medal and Olympic record would prove an inspiration for the rest of the Australian team.

"It just gets them off to a flying start," he said.

"Don't underestimate the impact on the team. It's inspiring for them all."

Elmslie was given the fourth spot in the team for the relay final team after impressing in the heats with the fastest split as she, Libby Trickett, Yolane Kukla and Emily Seebohm qualified the team fastest for the final.

Also cheering the girls on was Ashlea Gierke, who had swum beside both of them.

"I had tears in my eyes ... they've got the best personalities for it," the 21-year-old said.

"It's great to see friends achieve something they've worked so hard for."

Gierke said Elmslie was like a little sister to her.

"She's very positive ... she's always had that fire in her belly.

"She's going to be the next big thing.

"I can't wait to see them. It will be great to spend some time with them both."



Brittany Elmslie was born in Nambour and grew up in Noosa.

She won gold in the 50m freestyle at the Junior Pan Pacs and was a national age champion.

The 18-year-old has moved to Brisbane to train under Matt Brown at Nudgee.

She was given the nod to take the fourth spot in the final squad after out-performing teammates Libby Trickett, Yolane Kukla and Emily Seebohm in the heats.

Her time of 53.41 in the heats was enough to get her picked ahead of the more fancied Trickett and Kukla.

Elmslie rewarded her coaches' faith, showing no signs of nerves as she passed the USA's Lia Neale to give the Australian team the lead for the first time in the race.

She is also believed to be just the second Sunshine Coast swimmer to win Olympic gold, fittingly after Schlanger.

Topics:  brian stehr brittany elmslie olympics swimming

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