Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

IPSWICH OLYMPIAN'S WAVE OF GOOD LUCK; Leah Heading to Rio Games after Terrific Send-Off

Newspaper article The Queensland Times (Ipswich, Australia)

IPSWICH OLYMPIAN'S WAVE OF GOOD LUCK; Leah Heading to Rio Games after Terrific Send-Off

Article excerpt

DAVID

LEMS

david.lems@qt.com.au

21st birthday adds to trip of a lifetime

IT'S not every day you get to celebrate your 21st birthday overseas. But when that special occasion is on the eve of an Olympic Games, it's even more meaningful.

That's the case for Ipswich achiever Leah Neale.

She turns 21 on August 1, as the Australian Dolphins swimming team completes its final preparations for the Rio Games.

Leah is expected to swim in the heats of the 4x200m freestyle just days after her birthday. "I think it will be awesome,'' she said.

Despite having competed around the world in recent years, Leah remains fiercely proud of her Ipswich upbringing. "I started swimming here so Ipswich is always home,'' she said.

She attended Silkstone State School from year 1-7 before graduating at St Mary's College in 2012. "My teachers were always supportive of what I wanted to do,'' she said. "And they were really considerate when it came to meets and that kind of thing.''

After a number of years with Ipswich's CYMS club, she trained in Brisbane before relocating to the Sunshine Coast to work with coach Chris Mooney at the University's Spartans squad.

Her Olympic dream has finally become a reality. "I'm just really excited to see what it's like and to be part of it all,'' the dedicated Ipswich swimmer said.

SURROUNDED by family and friends, Leah Neale is relaxed, happy and grateful.

She's feeling at ease about her Rio adventure ahead.

She's content knowing she's done the work.

Ipswich's latest Olympic swimmer is also appreciative of the well-wishers and support she's receiving.

A recent video on Leah, organised by St Mary's College, has attracted 20,000 views on Facebook.

But it's not only college students and staff urging her on.

Seventy family and friends attended a special farewell party at Ripley on Sunday to wish Leah well before she heads overseas. Her destination is next month's Olympic Games in Brazil.

She leaves tomorrow with her squad to train and get acclimatised in San Diego before joining the full Australian Dolphins team at Auburn University for final Olympic preparations. …

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