Ipswich swimmer Leah Neale (third from left) celebrates being part of Australia's gold medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team at the Commonwealth Games. The other Aussie swimmers to set a new Games record were Emma McKeon, Brianna Throssell and Ariarne Titmus.
Ipswich swimmer Leah Neale (third from left) celebrates being part of Australia's gold medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team at the Commonwealth Games. The other Aussie swimmers to set a new Games record were Emma McKeon, Brianna Throssell and Ariarne Titmus. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Be proud Ipswich: Leah's golden moment

IPSWICH'S sporting pride is shining brightly today after swimmer Leah Neale's golden night at the Commonwealth Games pool.

Leah, 22, shared in the Australian 4x200m freestyle relay team that won gold and set a new Games record at the Gold Coast.

As Leah earnt a well-deserved sleep-in, proud dad Ian typified his family's pride in Ipswich.

"That reward for her personally is fantastic,'' Ian said, having also been in Rio when Leah won an Olympic silver medal in 2016.

"I think that's the icing on the cake for her in that event.

"We're pretty excited.''

While thrilled to see Leah win a gold medal at her first Commonwealth Games, Ian praised other city representatives at the Games.

"It's a bit of pride,'' Ian said, after watching Saturday night's final in the stands with his wife Karen.

"Karen and I are born and bred Ipswich people and it's nice to bring that home into the fold knowing that we've got one of several athletes that are from the region competing here at the Games.

"We are just really glad to be part of not just Leah, it's a great contingent from the Ipswich area. I think that's great.''

Ian was referring to Ipswich's other Games contingent - hockey player Jordyn Holzberger, weightlifters Deb Acason and Alyce Stephenson and athlete Cassie Purdon.

Holzberger is part of the Australian Hockeyroos team that won its first two games against Canada and Ghana.

History-making Acason competes in her 90+kg division at Carrara Stadium on Monday afternoon. It's her fifth Commonwealth Games, having also won a gold medal like Leah.

Ipswich nurse Stephenson set a personal best in her 48kg division last Thursday.

Lanefield athlete Purdon competes in the high jump on Thursday.

For former Silkstone State School and St Mary's College student Leah, winning gold at the Commonwealth Games provided a special moment.

"She had some expectation for herself for the individual swim and that didn't result in a medal (she came sixth in the 200m freestyle final) but she still came back and managed to hold her position in the relay team,'' Ian said.

"So we were pretty excited.

"We sort of stay on the edges but you are aware of all the emotional highs and lows and the challenges they go through.''

 

Ipswich gold medal-winner Leah Neale with parents Karen and Ian.
Ipswich gold medal-winner Leah Neale with parents Karen and Ian. Rob Williams

Ian, Karen, their  son Ashley and other family members watched Leah's golden performance from the western stand at the Gold Coast pool.

"We were halfway up and we're on the finish end,'' he said.

"We had a reasonable view of the race but everyone was standing in the latter stages of that relay.

"It was just terrific to be part it, exciting to be there and just relieved.''

Ian said it was tough having Leah endure a swim-off in the morning to secure one of two available spots on the Aussie relay team.

"It was an anxious time. We didn't even know if we were going to have a swimmer from a personal point of view,'' Ian said.

"It was a really good atmosphere and a good program and great medal result for Australia.''



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