13 year old swimmer Lia Neal

The New York Times has an interesting article on Lia Neal. The 13 year old swimmer has been compared to another biracial athlete who’s excelling in a sport dominated by whites, (Lia’s dad is African American and her mom is Asian) Tiger Woods.

13-Year-Old Blazes a Lane in Swimming’s Olympic Pool
By KAREN CROUSE

Back and forth the swimmers went, one lap in the 25-yard course turning into four, four laps becoming 400 by the end of the two-and-a-half-hour practice. In one lane, the chain of bodies skimming the surface had a strong link in the middle, the swimmer two behind the leader commanding the eye with her long, fluid strokes.

Lia Neal, a newly minted 13-year-old from Brooklyn, is at an age when girls tend to expend a lot of energy trying to blend into the background. Neal is a typical teenager in that respect. She defers to her older teammates when it comes to setting the training pace. She retrieves equipment for everybody in her lane as if she were their kid sister and not a prodigy.

Neal stands out, anyway, because of her deft strokes and her dark skin. The youngest child of an African-American father and an Asian mother, she has been compared to another biracial prodigy who blossomed in a mostly white sport. The connection to Tiger Woods is perhaps inevitable, but Neal prefers being mentioned in the same breath as Cynthia Woodhead, a swimmer in the 1970s who, like Neal, qualified for the Olympic trials in the freestyle as a 12-year-old.

“I think I’ve heard of her,” Neal, her hair in braids and her eyes sparkling, said with a shy smile last week. She waded demurely into an interview at Asphalt Green, an Upper East Side athletic complex, before diving into a 10,000-yard workout.

A seventh grader at Convent of the Sacred Heart on the Upper East Side, Neal will compete this weekend at the USA Swimming sectional championships at the Nassau County Aquatic Center at Eisenhower Park.

In New Jersey in January, in her last competition in a 50-meter pool before turning 13 on Feb. 13, Neal swam the 100-meter freestyle in 56.87 seconds. It was 0.32 seconds better than the cutoff to compete in the United States Olympic trials from June 29 to July 6 in Omaha.

3 responses

  1. Shaping Youth

    yep, got it, here’s the piece I just wrote, fyi:
    http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=1870

    thanks, A.

  2. I didn’t write the article. The article is from the New York Times.

  3. Shaping Youth

    Loved this post. I’ve been watching Lia Neal for inspiration for our teen tribe at Shaping Youth.org. Here’s a video of her from the Asphalt Green Aquatic crew: http://tinyurl.com/5dnzsb

    I worry about her with the media hounds, since she doesn’t yet have the eloquence of the endorsement deal-driven slicksters…and wonder how it feels for her to always get compared to Tiger Woods, from a legacy standpoint, so I was thrilled you got a mention of Cynthia Woodhead for context.

    Did you interview Lia directly or via research compilation? Great piece; thanks for sharing! –Amy

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