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Anita Lonsbrough

At the second World Short Course Championships it was Sam Riley who collected gold in both breaststroke events. At the third, another Australian wrote her name into the record books - the name is Kristy Ellem.

The similarities do not end there. Both Sam and Kristy are coached by Scott Volkers at the Valley Pool in Brisbane. While Sam has been an inspiration and role model for Kristy, her sporting heroine is Susie O'Neill.

Double golds for Kristy at first championships
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Kristy's way to becoming world champion has not been a solo effort. Her parents Brian and Becky take turns to get their talented daughter up at 4:45 a.m. and to the pool by 5:15 every morning. After two hours of training she has breakfast at the pool. Then it's school until 3:10 p.m.

But here again the school - Morton Bay College - has its role. Kristy is allowed to miss certain lessons to do some of her homework. After school it's back to the pool before going home, having dinner, finishing off any homework, and going to bed to recover for another early rise.

Kristy does not miss spending time with her friends, for her strict routine is often broken on the weekend, when she loves to go shopping with friends or go to a cafe, drink hot chocolate, and talk, just like any other 15 year old.

Travel is another of her interests, particularly travel to the USA, but in April she was happy to go to Gšteborg, Sweden, where she hoped to pick up a medal in the 200 breaststroke. Although she headed the world rankings, she only considered she "had a chance in the 200 to make the final and swim well."

A telegram from her training partner, Sam Riley, said "Swim good. Have fun. Go well. Good luck." An inspiration for anyone. Nerves hit her in the heats of this, her first international swim. But in the final she admitted that she "felt much more relaxed."

Although she had the lead throughout the race she thought "there was someone up with me at 150. It was not until I turned and saw the scoreboard," that she realized she had won.

Third fastest all-time 200 breaststroke time
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Her immediate reaction was "this was my personal best (2:22.68) and I think everything went well. In fact this is the third best time for the distance ever. I felt confident because I had a good race this morning. I started off strong and kept it the whole way."

That night sleep did not come easy. The medal was safely tucked in her bag with her swim things, but on her mind was the race the next day - the 100 breaststroke. "It did cross my mind that I could get a medal but I didn't expect to win."

But win she did, by storming through in the closing metres to snatch victory from the grasp of the more experienced duo of Alicja Peczak, POL, and Svetlana Bondarenko, UKR. Kristy's time of 1:08.27 was just 6/100 of a second ahead of second place.

"Unbelievable," was her reaction, adding "It was a bit of a slow time, so I'm a bit disappointed, but I can't believe that I won."

As with all Australians, Sydney 2000 is uppermost in her mind. She will finish school in 1999 and take a year off, working for what she hopes will be Olympic glory. Afterwards, she's not quite sure -- maybe university or a job as a sports commentator. But if Olympic gold comes her way, the world could be her oyster.

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