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'Thank you for saving my life': Olympian recognised for saving girls from rough surf

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The term “doing a Bradbury” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Steven Bradbury became synonymous with unexpected success after a shock 2002 Winter Olympic victory.

Now the former speed skater is being hailed for his bravery after saving four girls in surf on the Sunshine Coast.

Mr Bradbury was the last man standing in the men’s 1000m short track final at Salt Lake City, winning Australia’s first Winter Olympic gold.

Twenty years later, he went into “Olympic mode” again to rescue four teenagers from rough seas at Caloundra.

His March 2022 heroics have officially been recognised after receiving a commendation for brave conduct from the Queensland Governor in Brisbane.

“With the Olympic gold, I had been training my guts out for 14 years to get myself in that position,” Mr Bradbury said.

“I am not sure how you compare it with a bravery award.

“But it was nice to know that the body and the mind could switch back to Olympic mode for a few minutes when required.”

Steven Bradbury in 2002 with his Olympic gold medal. Picture: Simon Renilson/AAP

Mr Bradbury was teaching his son how to surf in 2022 when he saw what he thought was a log in the huge swell.

“Then I realised it was a human head,” he said.

“I clicked straight into gear. I sent my son to the lifeguards and paddled out.”

Mr Bradbury first came across a 12-year-old girl.

“I had never seen anyone look so scared before in my life,” he said.

“After that I saw three more heads further out.”

He took the 12-year-old to shore before paddling out to the others.

A view of the coastline at Caloundra.

“One was hyperventilating and one was panicking. They were just getting pounded wave after wave,” he said.

“I got all three on the board but we had no momentum.”

Suddenly the lifeguard his son had alerted arrived, plucking two girls from the water.

Mr Bradbury took the other to shore before all three teens got the medical all-clear.

“The girl I got out of the water first came running up to me on the beach afterwards and hugged me, she said ‘thank you for saving my life’,” he said.

“That was when it sort of dawned on me I had done something pretty cool.”

Mr Bradbury received his bravery award from Queensland Governor Jeannette Young on Tuesday, earning Australian Olympic Committee praise.

“We have always admired Steven for the way he has made history on the ice but his actions … reflect an incredible achievement, saving four young lives,” AOC president Ian Chesterman said.

“He always had amazing courage as an athlete and it has served him well here.”

Mr Bradbury may have won historic gold but the four-time Olympian rated the 2022 rescue “one of the greatest days of my life”.

“I don’t feel like a bravery award is necessary but I am happy to accept it and feel pretty proud about it,” he said.

“The feeling of knowing that you have saved people’s lives is something I will take to my grave.”

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