Brooklyn's Lia Neal, just 17 years old, will swim for the U.S. Olympic team at the 2012 Olympics, becoming just the second African-American female swimmer for Team U.S.A. in history. She will take part in the 4x100 meter relay. The New York Times sat down with her father, a blues singer named Rome Neal, for a story that is well worth your time.
"In the beginning, my wife was saying: ‘Keep it down, keep it down, we don't want to jinx this thing. Don't be talking so much about it to people,' " he said. "Now I can talk because the whole world is talking."
Lia Neal has put in plenty of work to get to reach such an elite level. Everyday, she would travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan at 5 a.m. to swim before school. After school she swam for another two hours. Somehow, she found the time to learn how to speak fluent Cantonese and Mandarin as well.
Neal's presence on the Olympic squad may represent a gradual resurgence of African Americans in a sport that has had so few at all levels. This year, three members of the U.S. Swimming team and two members of the U.S. Gymnastics team are African-American.