After some Easter chocolate, Leah eyes the world
AS one of Ipswich's most dedicated sportswomen, Leah Neale sets the highest standards.
So it's understandable the Rio Olympics silver medallist was looking to finish higher than fourth in her two main events - the 200m and 400m freestyle - at the latest Australian championships.
However, Neale's important swimming role was recognised when she retained her place in the Australian Dolphins team preparing for the world championships in Hungary from July 14-30.
She's in line to contest the 4x200m freestyle relay, the event she won her silver medal in at last year's Rio Olympics.
With another block of solid training ahead, Neale enjoyed the luxury of some Easter chocolate at home, also celebrating family birthdays at Newtown over the long weekend.
Neale, 21, was today returning to her training base with the USC Spartans on the Sunshine Coast.
"It's back to full training starting Wednesday,'' she said, having appreciated a rare opportunity to relax.
"I got to actually have an Easter for once, enjoy a bit of chocolate.''
Neale is often in heavy training or competing overseas at this time of the year.
Although she hoped for better times at last weekend's national titles at Chandler, Neale remained focused on the months ahead.
Competing in Budapest will be her second world long course championships, having represented Australia at the previous titles in Kazan, Russia in 2015.
On that occasion, the former St Mary's College student finished 21st in the 400m freestyle, 26th in the 800m freestyle and made the 4x200 freestyle relay final with the Aussie team.
This time, former CYMS St Edmund's club swimmer Neale can focus specifically on the relay.
"I think it's a bit different this year as well because I don't really have those individual events,'' she said.
Her Rio experience was also invaluable on how to prepare for intense international situations and making the most of every opportunity offered.
After her first Olympic Games in Brazil, Neale was in familiar surroundings with less pressure at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre.
"It's like a home pool so it wasn't really as nerve-racking,'' she said.
"It wasn't trying to make the Olympics, the one that comes around every four years.''
Neale was happy with her training leading up to the five-day national titles. She swam a personal best (55.34) in her first 100m event.
However, the former Silkstone State School student was expecting more in the 200m and 400m freestyle finals.
"I wasn't actually very happy with my swims,'' she said.
"My best time was in my 100 actually. I did a little PB there at the start of the meet.
"My 200 was okay. I was just hoping to go a bit quicker.''
In that event, Neale finished fourth (1:58.40) behind winner Emma McKeon (1:55.68).
In the 400m, the Ipswich freestyler registered a time of 4:11.55 chasing new Aussie sensation Ariarne Titmus (4:04:82).
"That's all I could do for the meet at that point in time,'' Neale said. "I can't be too disappointed but you're always striving to get a PB.''
LEAH Neale's latest national team selection came after she was named QT Senior Sportsperson of the Year at the 2016 City of Ipswich Sports Awards dinner in November.
She also received the Keys to the City at a special ceremony in Ipswich last October.
Having shared in a relay bronze medal success at the 2014 world short course titles in Doha before the 2015 long course titles in Russia, Neale feels more comfortable about heading to Budapest in July.
The world championships will be contested under a heat and final format, without semi-finals held at the Olympics.
"I don't really mind,'' Neale said of the slicker format. "I've always raced heats and finals and opens has been the one where they changed the heats and the finals. I've got good experience in both.''
As for her Dolphins teammates at the nationals, Neale is confident the Aussie contingent is well placed for a successful world championships. "Everyone swam really well,'' she said. "Everything is looking pretty promising.''