The stunning silver medal Ipswich swimmer Leah Neale won in Rio.
The stunning silver medal Ipswich swimmer Leah Neale won in Rio. Rob Williams

Aussies search for answers on why Americans rule pool

A WISE Ipswich mum offered one theory why the Americans often find a way to beat world-ranked Aussies in the pool at Olympic Games.

"They (America) are the best of the best of the best, and we (Australia) are the best of the best,'' Leah Neale's mother Karen told her daughter during her recent Rio Olympics campaign.

It was an observation that Ipswich's Olympic silver medallist can appreciate.

America is a juggernaut while Australia often punches above its weight.

As a major review of the Australian team's performance in Rio continues, Leah was one of the swimmers to meet expectations when sharing in her country's 4x200m freestyle relay success.

However, she sympathises with teammates like Campbell sisters Cate and Bronte, who were expected to finish one-two in their major sprint events before missing an individual medal completely.

Leah shared an apartment with the sisters in the Olympic Village and saw first hand how devastated Cate was.

"No one knows what happened but you have to support her and stuff like that,'' Leah said.

As for her relay success, Neale revealed one of her strategies was to turn off social media two days before she swam.

"There was a bit of stuff going around and I thought I don't really want to be a part of that,'' the focused Ipswich swimmer said.

Leah said the Aussie team had to cope with exceptionally high public hopes.

"We did do very well but I think they expected more out of people just going on performances from last year,'' she said.

"You pretty much just have got to be on, on the day. You never know what's going to happen.

"You can do all the preparation in the world and not do your best.''

As the stunning and surprisingly heavy medal sits on the table in front of Leah, her smile highlights her satisfaction.

"People like telling us that we were in medal contention,'' she said. "But we never really expected to come out with a silver.''

After matching the best in the world in her relay event, Leah will have plenty of purpose returning to her Sunshine Coast training base, working alongside coach Chris Mooney.

Which brings Leah back to why the Americans dominate every Olympics.

"That's what I've been asking as well. How are they so far in front of everyone else?'' she said.

Celebrating Rio success

DESPITE the well publicised problems highlighted before and during the Rio Olympics, Leah Neale enjoyed every minute being on the Australian swim team.

"I had no issues with Rio, which is good,'' she said.

"I thought it was a good place.

"We went out at the night time as well just to celebrate but we stayed in big groups.

"It was an awesome experience, an awesome environment.

"It was different to what I was thinking . . . it was moreso the fact that I didn't realise I would be there at some point in my life.''

She benefitted from being in the international spotlight.

"Just experiencing all the hype I suppose at the Olympics is just good to have under your belt,'' she said.

Before heading home, she got to watch other sports like weightlifting, cycling and the bronze medal basketball match involving Australia.

She saw famous Williams' tennis sisters Serena and Venus in the Olympic Village dining area, and got to sit next to Michael Phelps on a bus.

"He's a legend,'' she said of the record-breaking Olympian.

One of her only disappointments was not getting to see Usain Bolt win his three athletics gold medals.