Proud Ipswich family sharing Games glory
WHEN Ipswich swimmer Leah Neale represents Australia at next month's Commonwealth Games, she'll have one of her closest allies just metres away.
However, it will be business as usual for the Olympic freestyle relay silver medallist.
Leah's ever-supportive mum Karen will also be at Games pool, performing an important role of her own.
Karen has been selected from thousands of volunteer applications to work in spectator services at the Gold Coast Games.
The Silkstone teacher said it was a huge honour to be chosen, especially with Leah representing Australia at the same time.
"That was the icing on the cake for me,'' Karen said.
"I was going to do it rain, hail or shine but knowing that she was going to be there as well was an extra bonus.''
Karen's role will be scanning tickets, ushering people into their seats and helping guests enter the venue for swimming and diving events at the Gold Coast pool.
She applied for the Gold Coast position having watched Leah at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she won a silver medal as part of Australia's 4x200m relay team.
"It was too good an opportunity not to do it,'' Karen said of applying to become a volunteer.
"After being in Rio and to see what they were doing is when I decided I wanted to something like this.
"I was selected from something like 45,000 that applied and that went down to 15,000.''
She received an insight into the venue during the recent Australian Swimming Commonwealth Games trials.
"It's really good, a nice atmosphere and beautiful overlooking the water,'' Karen said.
With Leah preparing for the Games, Karen said her main role would not change.
"I'm just her mum. That's all I am,'' the modest parent said, having been a year 3 teacher at the sports-minded Silkstone State School for nine years.
"I'm her support network if she wants to cry, if she wants to laugh at me.''
Leah is delighted her mum received an opportunity to represent Australia.
Karen has supported the former Silkstone State School and St Mary's College student for so many years on her swimming conquests around the world.
"I think she's very excited about it,'' Leah said. "It's good for her to be involved in experiencing the volunteer, the behind the scenes job.
"She can get to meet some people I know.''
Having recently tested the outdoor pool at the Australian Commonwealth Games trials, Leah expects her mum to enjoy it as much as her.
"The whole set-up was pretty awesome, and I'm quite looking forward to it,'' she said.
Karen's husband Ian and their son Ashley are also planning to watch the Games, being on holidays.
The Neale family cheered on Leah during her silver medal-winning performance at the Rio Olympics.