When from the 2012 Summer Games in London in the 400 meter freestyle relay, seemingly all of Fort Greene rose up to express their pride in .
But no one could have been prouder than Lia's family, neighbors and friends—a tight-knit clan that has seen the 17-year-old's intense preparation pay off in a big, big way.
“It feels good, it’s blessed to have her back and for her to be at this level with the bronze medal. It touched a lot of people," said Rome Neal in front of the family's Fort Greene home earlier this month.
A passerby stopped Rome while he was outside of their apartment—where Lia was catching up on some needed sleep—and said he watched his neighbor take the bronze.
“It was really exciting to watch her, we all watched her,” the passerby said to Rome.
Sharon Lewis, a next door neighbor, even ordered a welcome home banner to hang on the Neal’s house. Lewis said that all of the kids on this block sandwiched between Brooklyn Navy Yard and Fort Greene Houses participated in decorating the banner.
The banner didn't just celebrate Lia's victory but what Lewis called the block's flowering after decades of neglect.
“My gosh, the thing with Lia is that she has lived on this block all her life. This block has come a long way, there used to be vacant lots all over, and now to have an Olympian who grew up here is amazing,” Lewis said.
Another neighbor, Aaron Whitby, said he let the Neals stay with his mother who lives in London while they went to watch Lia compete.
“She’s completely down to earth and is a humble superstar,” Whitby said while he stopped to talk with Rome Neal.
In the end, it was the Olympian's proud father that seemed to sum up Lia's effect on the neighborhood best.
“I feel very blessed my daughter could bring light to this neighborhood, borough and city. There’s so much darkness here with mass murders and we need hope. There’s been so much hope from TV and reading Facebook posts, everyone watched Lia win,” he said. “People said they have tears in their eyes because Lia won and that’s beautiful. It’s just a blessing to have her.”