Van Panhuis makes big splash
FORMER St Ursula's College student Georgie Van Panhuis emerged as a force to be reckoned with as the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships came to a close last weekend.
At just 15, Van Panhuis, along with partner Catherine Uhlrich, won gold in the under-17 first-aid competitions at Gold Coast's Kirra Beach.
While Van Panhuis's efforts in the under-17 events were incredible, she also stood out in the under-19 competition, claiming a highly commended fifth in the first-aid events.
"They were both surprised that they achieved the goal, particularly when they were competing against Manly in Sydney," father Artie Van Panhuis said.
"It is their biggest achievement to date, after receiving a bronze medallion in the under-15 age group last year."
It was Van Panhuis's second year competing for her the Maroochydore club at a national level, reflecting the skills and techniques she was taught as a young Yeppoon nipper.
"The girls were required to assess injuries, provide first-aid and communicate their decisions to 12 assessors within 12 minutes," Artie said.
"The under-19 scenario consisted of a competitor being shot in the back by a substance-abused official, whilst an innocent bystander was run over by a four-wheel drive whose driver had suffered a broken neck and was rendered unconscious."
The former Yeppoon surf lifesaver revealed she was motivated to push herself to new limits as a way of paying tribute to good friend Matthew Barclay, who died earlier in the competition.
"Every race she competed in was for Matt and Saxon (Bird, killed at the championships in 2010), as it was for every athlete," Artie said.
"It was truly traumatic for the entire club, but it also reflected on the club's strength and commitment to its members."
The championships resumed at North Kirra Beach on Friday after the drowning of the Maroochydore 14-year-old on Wednesday.
Noosa Heads competitor Sam Bell exceeded expectations when he won a bronze medal in the under-19 surf belt event at the Australian championships.
The former Emu Park SLSC nipper was the middle of his belt crew, with two teammates being world ironman champions Grant Kenny and Darren Mercer.
The club's medal haul comes off the back of the successful coaching staff, including Ted McLeod current head coach at the Emu Park SLSC.