Two of our inspirational Aussie rising swimming stars are set to compete at the Rio Olympic Games this year, but are already thinking about life after sport, as they manage to juggle university studies on the side.
Leah Neale, 20: 4 x 200m freestyle relay
Leah was first thrown into the pool when she was only 18 months old and hasn’t looked back. Named as the first 15-year-old Australian in history to swim the 200m freestyle in under 2 minutes, Leah has always dreamed of competing in a team at the Olympic Games.
Aside from her strict daily training commitments, she has also managed to start her studies of a Bachelor of Exercise & Movement studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Despite putting her studies on hold while she competes in Rio, Leah is set on diving straight back in next year after she returns. She describes studying as “a great distraction from the pool” and has found juggling time around both study and her training schedule relatively easy due to good planning and time management.
The Olympic Games are her current focus and when asked about her future dreams outside of swimming, she responded “all I can see myself doing is swimming.” She does however have some interest in getting into sports physiotherapy or nursing when her time in the pool is eventually up.
Leah’s top 3 tips for pursuing your dreams and staying motivated:
1) Enjoy what you do- you won’t be able to achieve your best if you’re not truly passionate about it
2) Set realistic yet challenging goals
3) Believe in yourself
Taylor McKeown, 21: 100m & 200m breaststroke, 4 x 100m individual medley relay
From a very young age, swimming in her backyard pool, Taylor has always loved swimming but never saw herself as very good. Determined to be the best, she joined her local swim club in Year 1 and has excelled in leaps and bounds since then.
When she’s not training devotedly for the Olympics or dedicating her time to promoting the wellbeing of animals, Taylor is studying a Bachelor of Science (Animal Ecology) full-time. She says forward planning has been the only way she can stay on top of her study commitments, working ahead and finishing assessments early so she doesn’t get too far behind when she travels for swimming. However, despite her excellent planning skills, she admits she is “very bad at leaving exam study to the last minute.”
Currently focused and dedicated to do her very best at the Games, when her swimming dream is over, Taylor hopes to one day open up a swim school to pass on her passion and knowledge of swimming to the younger generation. She would also love to work in a wildlife hospital and after “falling in love with the Great Barrier Reef whilst holidaying there a few years ago,” she would love the opportunity to take up a career in the area.
Her passion for the water has seen her become ambassador for The Dolphin Project, advocating for the welfare and protection of dolphins worldwide.
Taylor’s top 3 tips for pursuing your dreams and staying motivated:
1) Always think of ways that you can improve
2) Always give it your best
3) Reflect on challenges and ask yourself: “what would the best in the world be doing in this situation?”