Elena Damianopoulos

Gold Medallion Winner 2014

In October 2014, at the age of just 14, Elena Damianopoulos unwittingly became a hero.  She was on holiday with family and friends at Moore River, and decided to head to the beach for a swim.  

While she was there a life threatening emergency happened.  “Me and my friend were sitting on the beach, watching the other kids play in the water, when one of the kids got swept out into the sea in a rip from the mouth of the river.  One of the kids started screaming his name out for him to come back in but he couldn’t, so I just ran into the water and swam out to him, hopped onto his boogie board and we swam back into shore.” 

Elena says at the time she was unaware how dangerous the situation was.  “It kind of just happened.  I didn’t realize what I actually did until I got out of the water really.  While I was in the water one of my friends ran up to the campsite to get the parents.  One of the parents tried swimming in with a board, but the board snapped so he had to swim back to shore.  When I came back in he said ‘you have no idea what you’ve done just then!’ so it was just a bit crazy!” 

Elena received a Gold Medallion award for her brave act at the 2014 Western Power Royal Life Saving Bravery Awards and says it came as a surprise.

“At the time that it happened I didn’t think it was actually that bad, so when everyone came up to me so amazed and calling me a hero I was like, maybe I did do something amazing?” 

She says her background in learning about water safety was certainly crucial in the rescue.  “I started surf club when I was 7, but I did do swimming lessons in the pool before then.  What I learnt helped me in the situation.  When we were doing training we always thought we were never going to have to use those skills, but when it actually came to it I thought; well there’s an example, because you never know, you might need it.” 

She encourages everyone to get involved in swimming and lifesaving training.

“It’s really, really important because what happened was a life or death situation really.  So if I didn’t have those skills and all the knowledge then the outcome could have been different.  If you have the skills and knowledge you have a higher chance of keeping someone alive and saving them.”

Elena Damianopoulis hugging Ben Gibcus the boy she saved from a rip