BEFORE the Olympics, I thought former Silkstone State School student Leah would swim well in Rio because I could see she was so relaxed and confident.

What a stunning swim in that heat in her first race as an Olympian.

You should have seen our whole school in the hall cheering for our girl. It was a very special time. It was a great feeling; you could sense the pride literally bursting from our children and the continuous roar of support from the time Leah left the blocks to the time the race finished was something we'll never forget.

I'm sure it's something many children that were there will tell their children, friends, grandchildren for years to come.

This united our school like nothing I've seen. I've never seen our staff so excited as well.

I feel very fortunate to have been allowed to be a part of this special journey throughout the years. It is something I treasure.

Yesterday was without a doubt one of the highlights of my life as a Phys Ed teacher. I kept getting flashbacks throughout the day of Leah as a little kid in the pool here at Silkstone and thought of the magnitude of her journey. It was brilliant. I was so very proud of her, and I don't mind saying I was very emotional as well.

Leah is so special because she is so well grounded and humble.

She's not some freak swimming machine. She is a talented girl from Silkstone who had a dream.

I have been privileged to share in the excitement of the start of that dream, through the bumpy ups and downs of achievement, effort, self doubt, disappointment and determination that has forged the athlete, the person, and the performances we witnessed yesterday.

That reaction yesterday in the hall would not have happened without Leah really being a part of our community.

Not just "someone who went to our school". She is someone who the kids have seen timekeeping their races at the swimming carnival, swimming in the past students races, singing in the school's community choir at our variety concert, speaking to our sports classes. She is a part of our school, and the children responded accordingly.

She is a quality person, and a shining light of what can be achieved. Who knows how many she has inspired yesterday to go after their dreams.

Her family guidance and support has been unwavering throughout the years, and I can think of no one more worthy of the accolade of Ipswich's first ever Olympic swimming medallist.

It's an honour that will go down in history that no-one can ever take from her.

Calvin Hegvold