Quick-thinking nipper rescues race competitor
A NIPPER competing at a Mackay surf carnival had to make a split-second decision - finish the race or rescue a swimmer in distress.
For 12-year-old Lily Sayer there was no contest.
She prevented what could have been a dangerous outcome at Surf Life Saving Queensland's North Australian Championships, stopping to save a struggling fellow competitor in the Under-12 Surf Race at Harbour Beach.
Freestyling through the open water, Lily lifted her head to breathe and noticed her competitor flailing in the water.
"I saw someone crying and it looked like they were choking on a bit of seawater," she said.
Putting what she learned at Eimeo Surf Lifesaving Club to the test, she supported the troubled swimmer and signalled to the IRB for help.
"I put a good grip on her so she wouldn't sink and tried to calm her down by saying 'It's okay and the IRB will come help you soon'," Lily said.
"I helped her into the boat and still finished the event."
Lily's goal at the beginning of the race had been to do her best against all competition. At the first sign of danger that was instantly disregarded.
"I was thinking in my head, 'if I don't help this person out, I don't deserve to be a junior lifesaver'," she said.
The young lifesaver's quick thinking was commended by the surf lifesaving community. She was honoured with a North Australia Special Achievement for outstanding service in the spirit of the carnival.
And while Lily eventually finished second last in her event, she had no regrets.
"It's better than some medal to know someone is okay," she said.
Saving a struggling swimmer was something Lily never expected to do during a carnival, but she was glad her two years at Eimeo Surf Lifesaving Club had equipped her to handle the situation.
"If I didn't start nippers at Eimeo I wouldn't know what to do," she said.
The Mackay girl recommends her sport to anyone who loves meeting new people and spending time outdoors with friends.
"If you're thinking of joining nippers, come and give it a go because it's pretty cool way to spend the weekend," she said.
Lily's father, Steve Sayer, said he could not be more proud of his daughter.
"Both the parents of (the swimmer Lily helped) came up to me after the race, shook my hand and thanked Lily," Mr Sayer said.
"They told Lily that was what surf lifesaving was all about."