Victory rubs off on proud coach

Coach Brian Stehr has trained both Melanie Schlanger and Brittany Elmslie, who were part of the girls 100-metre freestyle relay team that won Australia's first gold medal at the London Olympic Games.
Coach Brian Stehr has trained both Melanie Schlanger and Brittany Elmslie, who were part of the girls 100-metre freestyle relay team that won Australia's first gold medal at the London Olympic Games. Brett Wortman

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

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The Peregian Springs swimming coach was glued to his TV early yesterday morning as the two girls he once coached powered to victory in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Both Elmslie and Schlanger are Nambour-born but it was Mr Stehr who moulded them into the quality athletes who could combine with Cate Campbell and Alicia Coutts to beat hot favourites The Netherlands and America and set an Olympic record in the process.

"I'm over the moon," Mr 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."

Mr 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.

Mr 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."

Elmslie came under Mr 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.

Mr 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 on the 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 yesterday was Ashlea Gierke, who has swum beside both of them.

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

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

Ms 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 (@brittanyelmslie):  What an AMAZING night. Thank you all so much for your tweets, overwhelming support. Time to get some sleep. xx

Melanie Schlanger (@Mel_Schlanger): Thanks everyone so much for the messages. It's incredible, a few days off before I race again on day 5.

Tessa Wallace (þ@tessa_wallace): First night of finals was incredible. Huge congrats to the 4x100 girls @Mel_Schlanger Alicia Coutts, Brittany Elmslie and Cate Campbell. yew

Christopher Wright (þ@wrighty_c88): My girlfriend @Mel_Schlanger is an Olympic gold medallist.

Australian Olympic Committee (@AUSOlympicTeam): 'A fantastic win and a fantastic team effort' says Leigh Nugent. This Gold was won by 7 Champions

Topics:  brian stehr brittany elmslie melanie schlanger olympic games

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