A Tribute to Lia Neal

Hello swimming enthusiasts!

I am back today to highlight Lia Neal, who not only was the second African-American woman ever to compete with the United States Olympic swim team, but someone whom I especially look up to in the female swimming world. Ever since Neal was eight years old, she has been training with Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics in New York City, the same team that I have swam with for the past four years. I have always admired Lia Neal, and the new knowledge as an eleven-year-old that a member of my own team had won a bronze medal in a relay alongside Jessica Hardy, Missy Franklin, and Allison Schmitt invigorated me to keep swimming and set my goals high.

Lia Neal was born in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in 1995, into a family consisting of Jerome, her father, Siu, her mother, and three older brothers. She is of both African-American and Chinese-American descent, and she can speak Cantonese and Mandarin in addition to English. From a very young age, Lia Neal loved the water, but she really began swimming when she was six years old, because her “friends were taking lessons and suggested [she] join them.” Two years later, other swim moms commented on her progress and suggested she try out for the team. She was a recipient of Asphalt Green’s Swim for the Future scholarship, which gives aspiring athletes with financial need a chance to excel in swimming. Even early on, Neal was already breaking age group records at Asphalt Green and in the Metropolitan LSC. In fact, she qualified for Olympic Trials in 2008 by breaking the 11-12 age group 100 meter freestyle record! One of Neal’s qualities that I particularly admire is her humility. After swimming to a fourth-place finish in the 100 meter freestyle finals in the 2012 Olympics, and earning her spot on the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay that same day, she claimed that her new title was “really cool.” The only African-American swimmer in her sport to ever represent the United States in the games before her was Maritza Correia, a silver medalist in the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay in 2004. “I never thought about me being the second one going into the race,” she explained, “but I guess that’s really a cool title to have.” But Lia Neal’s incredible achievements in swimming didn’t end there in 2012. Now, she will be a junior at Stanford, swimming two to three and a half hours every day, and up to 8,000 meters. Just this past March, Neal made history again in African-American swimming, at the Women’s Division 1 NCAA Championship. In the 100 meter freestyle finals, Simone Manuel of Stanford, Neal, and Natalie Hinds of University of Florida placed 1-2-3, the first time ever that three African-Americans were the top three finishes.

Clearly, Lia Neal is a model for women in swimming, African-Americans in swimming, and a more diverse sport overall. I wish her congratulations on all of her accomplishments, and I can’t wait to see what she will do next!

Sources

  • http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2012/07 olympic_swim_teams_second_black_woman.html
  • lianeal.com
  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anna-ntiasare/an-interview-with-simone-manuel-and-lia-neal_b_6966726.html
  • http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/lia-neal-ready-to-start-stanford-in-the-fall-but-still-needs-her-trip-to-china/
  • http://classicsoulradio.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/black-swimmers.png
  • http://www.newyorkfamily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/1.jpg
  • http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs/olympics/lia533.jpg
  • black-swimmerslia533 1

Chambers Becomes First Woman to Conquer Golden Gate Bridge Swim

Hello again!

Now happens to be a particularly busy time in the pool, as long course season and all of the championship meets have come to a close. At the Fina World Championships in Kazan, Russia,10-year-old Alzain Tareq from Bahrain became the youngest swimmer to ever compete, and Katie Ledecky became the first swimmer to win the 200 through 1500 freestyle at an international competition. But, on August 7th and 8th, while the world was busy watching Kazan and the national championships in San Antonio, Texas, 38 year old distance swimmer Kimberley Chambers braved the notorious 30 miles between Farallon Islands and the Golden Gate Bridge. She burst into tears as she reached her goal and the boat containing her mother and about 16 other crew members, the first woman following four men to accomplish the feat. Chambers described the difficulties of her journey, including the “living room of great white sharks,” the unpredictable weather, and her wave of sickness in the middle of the night when she couldn’t “keep any food down.” Since she needed to have food and water every 30 minutes in order to keep swimming, Chambers was worried that all of her hard work would be for nothing when she couldn’t eat. But both the crew on deck and fans like myself back home were rooting for her, and she swam through it.

Interestingly, Kimberley Chambers was not always a swimmer. The New Zealand-born, San Francisco resident was a former ballerina and rower before turning to distance swimming in 2009 to restore her leg after a life-threatening injury. She also became the sixth person to ever complete the Oceans Seven Challenge, a grueling seven-swim event spanning the Catalina Channel, the Moloka’i Channel, the North Channel, the Strait of Gibraltar, the English Channel, the Tsugaru Strait, and the Cook Strait. But after her 17-hour and 12-minute swim from Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge just a few days ago, Chambers, claimed that this was the “toughest swim in the world.” Personally, I am extremely impressed with her achievements. Chambers’ coach had attempted the swim the week before, and he needed to stop when a great white shark came near him! Imagine the bravery, determination, and self-confidence that fueled her to plunge into the same waters that had threatened her trainer. “I’m completely overwhelmed,” she said to CBS News. “This is something I’ve wanted for so long and I can’t believe I did it.” Congratulations to Kim Chambers for joining four other men who can say that they have endured the 30-mile shark-infested stretch to the Golden Gate Bridge! I believe that she is an amazing example of the power of women.

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Sources

Welcome to Women in Swimming!

Hello swimming enthusiasts!

My name is Betsey, and I am the creator of the Women in Swimming blog. I have been swimming competitively since I was seven years old, and it is something that I really enjoy. One of the reasons that I love swimming is because women get just as much attention as men. My goal with this blog is to bring to light incredible female swimmers of the past, present, and future, who are creating a platform (no pun intended) for women in sports. Every few weeks, I will be highlighting one of these females, and I encourage you to leave your comments about women in swimming! I am really excited about beginning my Women in Swimming blog, and I hope you are too. Stay tuned for more posts!