When 17-year-old Lia Neal earned her spot on the U.S. Women’s swim team, she became only the second African-American woman to do so. Her win injects tremendous pride in an already proud tradition of African American Olympic athletes of the past. The most beautiful think about Neal’s achievement is its uniqueness.
Not only is Lia only the second African American woman to medal in swimming in Olympic history, she is also the second to make the Olympic team at all. Lia and her team won the bronze medal in the women’s freestyle 4×100 relay.
And while many swimmers are known to hail from Florida, California and other warm-weather coastal states, Neal is straight out of New York City.
Neal lives in Brooklyn with her close-knit family who accompanied her to London for the games. Her family stands together with one another in their achievements and like most beautiful black families, she gets constant support from those who love her. Her brother Rome Neal is a senior video web producer at the New York post and penned a piece in honor of his little sister for the website.
“She’s bringing home a bronze to Brooklyn, but she is golden to us. It’s unbelievable that Lia is an Olympian,” he said.
“She first started swimming when she was 6, and I had left home in Brooklyn by then. I remember at one of her first races. I told her I didn’t want to her to be afraid to be more than ordinary. If she feels like racing, she should race to win and not feel bad if she beats other people. Because when you are younger, you want to blend in with the crowd.”
The rising high-school senior must have taken her brother’s advice. She’s definitely more than ordinary. Maybe for Neal, this is all just the beginning. She is now one of the greatest American swimmers of all-time.