2012 Summer Olympics Spotlight Series: Lia Neal
With the Olympians settling into Olympic Village in London this week, Rant Sports is previewing some of the incredible athletes who will represent the United States of America later this month in the 2012 Olympic Games.
In this edition, we introduce American swimmer, Lia Neal.
Neal, the 17-year-old swimmer out of Brooklyn finished fourth in the 100 m finals at the Olympic Trials, earning herself a spot on the 4×100 m relay team in London.
Neal, whose mother is from Hong Kong and father, Rome Neal, is an African American blues singer, becomes just the 2nd female swimmer of African American descent to qualify for the Olympic Games.
She comes from a family that instilled in her the characteristics one needs in order to make one’s dreams a reality.
Her father landed in Brooklyn in the 1950′s after fleeing from the racial oppression present in the South while her mother came to America at the age of 18 to “find a better life.”
The two met at a New York community college, eventually married, and had three sons. It wasn’t until later that their first and only daughter Lia was born.
Her parents’ story demonstrates hard work and determination, both of which the couple has passed on to their one and only daughter.
Lia became interested in swimming at the age of 6, and, through her mother’s urging, started competing as a member of Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics at the age of 8.
Every morning, Neal would ride into Manhattan at 5:00 a.m., swim for two hours, go to school, and stay two hours after school to practice in the pool.
Somehow, in between all the work she put into swimming, she managed to learn both Cantonese and Mandarin, and is fluent in both.
Her hard work and determination is paying off.
During her high school years she earned three gold medals as part of the 400m free relay, 800m free relay and 400m medley relay teams and earned individual silver and bronze medals at the 2010 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.
Now, she sets her sights on London and dreams of capturing her first Olympic gold.
Yes, thanks to her family and those around her, as well as her own sense of hard work and determination, Lia Neal knows exactly what it takes to reach her dreams; though just 17-years-old, she has been doing it for years.