Lia Neal and the Olympics: A Journey

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By Emma Koonse, Christian Post Reporter
July 16, 2012|10:30 am

Olympic swimmer Lia Neal has online users abuzz with her inspirational, history-making swimming feats.

The 17-year-old Brooklyn, New York native placed fourth in the 100-meter finals in Omaha, Nebraska earlier this month, earning a place to compete in the 2012 London Games.

Although she is not old enough to vote, she has already become only the second African-American female swimmer to make it to the Olympics.

Speaking to the New York Times, Neal's father Rome Neal described the beginning of his daughter's swimming career.

"She couldn't swim at the time," said Neal. "She'd be on my back in the water and she would be trying to swim, and I couldn't swim that well, but the water's not that deep so I'm making her look like she's swimming on top of my back."

Today, Lia is a part of the U.S. swimming team that will include two other African-Americans in London. Her journey was not without struggle, including sacrifices.

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"It doesn't have to be expensive," said Rome Neal. "If you have raw talent, you can exceed so many barriers. But the sport itself, it can be costly."

Luckily, Nia received a scholarship from a Manhattan nonprofit Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics, as well as from her school, Convent of the Sacred Heart in Manhattan.

Along with money though, the sport required a positive attitude and unconditional commitment.

"There was a lot of time, a lot of hard work, a lot of determination, for the child," Nia's mother, Siu Neal, told The Times. "She gave up a lot of the privileges other young people have. All of her time was either practicing swimming or dry land training or going to school. When she came home, she had home work to do."

The London Games begins July 27, and goes until August 12.

"I still can't believe that I'm going to London," Nia told the New York Post. "Once I get to the venue or the Olympic Village, maybe then I'll realize that I'm actually at the Olympics."

The athlete's story has inspired readers, and Nia Long became a trending topic on Twitter Monday.

"Makes me proud to be an American," wrote Wayne after retweeting the Olympic swimmer's article in The Times.

"This is a great story," added Spelman, while Rupa wrote, "This story has made my morning- Lia Neal, 17, the second Africa-American female swimmer to make the Olympics."

 

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