Ramsay family helps bid to revitalise Ipswich swimming
AS one of Ipswich's best known international swimmers, Heath Ramsay has always displayed tremendous pride in the city.
With a supportive family, Ramsay achieved his dream of representing Australia at the 2000 Olympics and 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Since retiring from the pool, he joined with sister Melissa Albion to set up the Heath Ramsay Swim School at Eastern Heights. That has helped a new generation of young people learn to swim.
He also formed another business, the Heath Ramsay Swim Centre, with his wife Rebecca. That involves learn-to-swim and squad training at West Moreton Anglican College.
The husband and wife team is now fulfilling another Ipswich dream.
They have overseen the formation of the not-for-profit Western Aquatics Swimming Club.
"We're trying to cover all bases," Heath said. "Try to cater from the new beginners and kids that just want to do club stuff right through to the elite swimmers trying to pursue higher avenues."
Heath is delighted Rebecca has taken on the presidency role. She's a former Toowoomba Glennie Anglican swimmer who has taught learn-to-swim and worked with squads since 1996.
Hearing "Bek" chat, it's clear she shares Heath's passion.
"None of the other operations (Heath Ramsay Swim School and Heath Ramsay Swim Centre) change," Rebecca said.
"It (adding Western Aquatics) is a huge opportunity to allow swimmers to start and progress all the way through.
"Western Aquatics really is an opportunity for families to have their children involved with something that is healthy, fun for everyone and really enjoyable.
"It's not just about competition.
"It's moreso providing an environment where these children can learn to be confident and feel good about themselves."
However, the more competitive swimmers can represent the new club at Brisbane Swimming Association meetings.
"It is a community initiative," Rebecca said. "It doesn't matter what a child is wanting to achieve. Everybody is welcome."
Growing up, Heath used to regularly compete at Ipswich and District Swimming Association events before the historic body was amalgamated with the Brisbane association.
The former 200m butterflier hopes to one day see similar competition restored between Ipswich clubs.
"The passion of both of us is to try and get Ipswich swimming back on the map," Heath said.
"There is a lot of clubs that are coming back, that are getting strong in the local area. So maybe this is a catalyst to try and get some Ipswich carnivals up and running again."
That typifies his regional loyalty.
"I'm more than happy to stay coaching in Ipswich," he said.
"One of my main goals as a coach has always been to try and have a quality program in Ipswich so kids don't have to go to Brisbane to make an Olympic or national team.
"To have the coaching credentials so they can stay in their home town and improve."