AUSTRALIAN golden girl Brittany Elmslie left for London unsure if she would even swim in a heat at her maiden Olympics.
Yesterday, the Coast product returned home as one of Australia's most successful athletes, with a gold and two silver medals to her name and a future that looks a lot brighter than it did a month ago.
After coming from nowhere to qualify for the Australian Olympic team at the trials, the 18-year-old proved to the world she was the real deal with the fastest Australian split in the 4x100m relay heats.
The performance was enough to book a spot in the final, where she produced a blistering third leg - one of the best swims by an Australian in London - to put Melanie Schlanger in the prime spot to anchor the team home for the nation's first gold medal of the Games.
It was a composed performance from a young athlete, who could easily have been succumbed to the pressure of her maiden swim on the biggest stage in world sport.
"I'm just so glad I could perform the way I did in such a high-pressure environment at my first Olympics," Elmslie said.
"A lot of people had said that people choke at their first Olympics, so I am glad I could go out and perform like that.
"This has exceeded all my expectations. It was an incredible experience.
"I have been passing my medals around to people, but the gold one is starting to get a bit worn from everyone touching it."
Elmslie, who relocated from Noosa to Brisbane last year to train with Matt Brown, said the key to her success in the relays in London was maintaining the same level of intensity and commitment that she had displayed in the lead-up to the trials.
Making the trials was in itself a big achievement for Elmslie.
She had struggled with form at times last year before turning it around when it counted.
"Between the trials and the Olympics I just did what I did before the trials and continued what I was doing," she said.
"My training was going really well. We went to the States for a solid month before the Olympics and trained there.
"I just left no stone unturned. It's all about those one per centers, because it all adds up in the end."
In addition to her gold and silver in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay swims, Elmslie also played a key role in qualifying the 4x200m freestyle relay team for the final, where Australia won bronze.
While much of her focus had previously been concentrated on the 100m, Elmslie said she would now give more attention to the 200m freestyle, given her performances over the distance during the year.
"For now I'm really just looking forward to Rio and the next four years," she said.
"Everyone has always said I was a 200m swimmer but I've always mainly focused on the 100m.
"But now we're starting to focus specifically on the 200m and obviously that will also help my 100m."