After world titles, Leah sets next goal
SPENDING so much time training and competing overseas, Olympic silver medallist Leah Neale enjoys nothing more than returning home to see her Ipswich family.
She's even "hopped on the Game of Thrones bandwagon'' to relax during a short break.
Having some time out of the pool is important, especially a year after the Ipswich-bred swimmer achieved her finest moment at the Rio Olympics.
Neale has just returned home after representing Australia at the world championships in Hungary and at other European meets that kept her overseas for 10 weeks.
Two of the pleasures being back in Ipswich were enjoying a family dinner and a belated 22nd birthday celebration.
"It's good to come home and slow down a little bit,'' Neale said.
Part of her relaxation routine will be watching hit American drama series Game of Thrones.
However, having a break also provides time to reflect on her progress.
Before winning a bronze medal as part of Australia's 4x200m freestyle relay team in Budapest last month, Neale received a bonus swim in the 400m freestyle. She finished 16th in the world.
"The placing doesn't really matter to me though,'' she said. "It's more about times and I didn't do my best.
"I wasn't close to my best but it's all a learning experience and I can't be too disappointed with how I've gone.''
She collected a bronze after swimming for Australia in the 4x200m relay heats.
But unlike Rio where she won silver, Neale missed a spot in the final this time.
"I've had a bit of time off overseas . . . and I had to re-evaluate what I wanted,'' she said.
"I know I definitely want to keep striving for the Commonwealth Games at the moment but definitely 2020 (Tokyo Olympics) is my ultimate goal.''
She sees next year's Games at the Gold Coast an opportunity too good to pass up.
"I had a look over my world champs because obviously it wasn't as well as I meant to swim so I had to rethink things,'' she said.
"Have a look at what I could do better and things that I can tweak to help me achieve what I want to achieve.''
She plans to concentrate on her 200m and 400m freestyle, forgoing the 800m event she swam for many years as a successful junior swimmer at state and national level.
Perhaps surprisingly, one of the areas Neale wants to work on is confidence.
"I need to back myself a little bit more,'' she said.
As she showed in her superb relay heat swim in Rio, she can match the best in the world when she does that.
Organising her future, the former Silkstone State School and St Mary's College student said it also took some time for life to return to normal after the Olympics euphoria.
Her dad Ian even suggested Leah is a "reluctant celebrity'', such is her humble attitude.
But she always welcomes you with a smile and Ipswich passion that underlines why she is a popular sportsperson.
That civic pride shone when she was named last year's The Queensland Times City of Ipswich Senior Sportsperson of the Year for her efforts.
Having decided to continue her swimming journey, Neale is focused on qualifying for next year's Commonwealth Games.
After deferring her sport and exercise science studies leading up to the Rio Olympics, she is also keen to continue that as part of her life balance.
She'll return to her University of Sunshine Coast training base after her current break for another block of training leading up to next year's Games trials.
Australian swimming officials have decided to mirror the Americans by having their trials closer to the Games.
The success of that will determine how Australian Swimming proceeds "on the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics''.