Lia Neal, at the 2012 Olympic Games, received a warm welcome from New York City on Friday morning at
Neal, 17, is half black and half Chinese, and is the second woman of African American descent to make the U.S. swim team and the second to bring home a medal.
While 500 campers chanted Neal’s name, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz, and her parents Rome and Siu, made their way to the microphone.
Bloomberg called Neal a hometown hero, saying, “Why wouldn’t a world class Olympian hail from the world’s greatest city?”
“We may be in Manhattan, but Brooklyn is in the house,” cheered Markowitz, who declared August 10 “Lia Neal Recognition Day in Brooklyn.”
“(She) represents the best of Brooklyn: resilience, hard work, dedication…you did Brooklyn proud,” he said.
Speaking to her neighbors in Fort Greene Neal said, “Thank you so much for all of your support. We’ve never met, but you’re sending me Tweets. Thank you.”
The bi-lingual swimmer began her career on the Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics swim team, and was a Swim for the Future Scholarship recipient.
Asphalt Green Executive Director Carol Tweedy said there is no Olympic-sized pool in Brooklyn. Therefore the Neals have started Swim Brooklyn!, the proceeds of which go to the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash program which seeks to eradicate inequalities in swimming programs and save lives.
“We need to kick Brooklyn in the butt and get moving to raise money…the only way to get kids swimming is to create an initiative.” Tweedy said.
“This is New York and there’s a lot of talent out there…we need free swim programs so that every kid has the chance to be as great as Lia.”
Lia’s father, Rome Neal, said that while there is “not wide outreach at this point in the community, there is more to come in the near future.”
Neal said she is excited to sleep before preparing for her senior year of high school, college, the 2016 Olympics and “making an impact…inspiring people to take up the sport.”