WITHOUT a moment’s hesitation, Stirling teenager Elena Damianopoulos plunged into the ocean to rescue a young boy when she was only 14.
Now at 16 years old, her brave actions have earned her a Commendation for Brave Conduct Award at the Australian Bravery Awards.
Elena said rescuing then nine-year-old Ben Gibcus from a rip while on holiday in Moore River was an instinct from her Floreat Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) training.
“It was so drilled in from surf life saving I didn’t think about it, I just knew what I had to do,” she said.
“Obviously when you go out to save someone you try not to think of the negative outcome, you just want to get out of there and do your best in what you are trained to do.
“It just happened, I didn’t think about what would happen for me afterwards I just had to get him because I knew he wasn’t okay.”
Elena said Ben’s family had become members of the Floreat SLSC the year after the rescue.
“We didn’t really know (Ben’s family) at that point but after that we became really close and we are family friends with them now,” she said.
“It is so important to get involved in surf life saving, especially living in Australia.
“You don’t realise it but the skills that we learn on the beach; those skills transfer over into the outside world too.”
Elena said her family and friends were extremely proud she had received the award along with a Surf Life Saving Australia National Award in 2015 and Royal Life Saving Bravery Award the previous year.
Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove said the Australian Bravery Awards helped to define the nation and identify role models.
“On behalf of all Australians, I thank them for their bravery,” he said.
“They are a source of courage, support and inspiration, and we are a stronger, safer and more caring nation because of them.”