An Olympic gold medallist has received a bravery award after saving four teenagers from drowning off the Sunshine Coast.
Steven Bradbury, who won gold in the 1000m short track speed skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, helped rescue the four girls at Happy Valley, Caloundra, in March last year.
The 49-year-old had been giving his son Flyn surfing lessons when he saw a girl in distress out in the surf.
“I grabbed my son’s board and told him to run to the lifeguards,” Bradbury told ABC Radio Brisbane.
“Once I got out there, I realised there were three more heads a bit further out that were right in the impact zone, getting smashed by two-metre plus waves.”
The former Olympian, who recalled seeing more fear in the girl’s eyes than he had ever seen in a person before, paddled her to shore before returning for the other swimmers.
Bradbury attempted to take the remaining three girls all at once on his board after one started to hyperventilate.
After attempting to paddle the three girls in at once, the beach’s lifeguards, who had been alerted by Bradbury’s son, arrived and pulled two of the girls from the surf.
“I got the third one and paddled her in and the emergency from there was over,” he said.
“But it was about five or six minutes of maximum intensity.
“It was kind of nice to know that under extreme circumstances, that I could still go back into what I call Olympic mode, even though I’m not as fit and a little older than I used to be.”
For his heroic effort, the former athlete was recognised with a commendation for brave conduct by Australian Governor General David Hurley.
Bradbury was the first Australian to ever win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.