USA: many are the stirring tales behind the stories of those who will line up to race at London 2012 at the end of the month, among them, the one in which 17-year-old Lia Neal became the second African-American female swimmer to make it to the Olympic Games. Writer William Rhoden offers a fine slant on how it all unfolded in a New York Times article out today.
Rome Neal walked up to the microphone last week at the Paris Blues in Harlem and was just about to sing “I Worry About You” when he decided to share some great news with his audience. In his 12 years of performing a one-man show about Thelonious Monk, Neal had come to appreciate the importance of exquisite timing. “My daughter’s name is Lia Neal and she just made it to become an Olympic swimmer, and she’ll be swimming in the Olympics in 2012 in London, England, the 4x100 relay,” Neal said.
The article is as much about the journeys of Lia's parents, Siu and Rome Neal, both 59, as it is about their daughter. "…their relationship reflects a deep-seated belief in possibility", writes Rhoden. "They were brought together by poignant variations of the American dream."
When he was a year old, Rome (his given name is Jerome, shortened by his mother to Rome) moved to New York City from Sumter, S.C., in 1953 as his family sought relief from the suffocating racial oppression in the South.
Siu and her family immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong when she was 18 to join her grandfather. “We were looking for a better life,” she said.
Rome’s family settled in Harlem before moving to Brooklyn. Siu’s family initially moved to the Bronx before also heading Brooklyn. They met at New York City Community College, married and had three sons: Rome Kyn, Smile and Treasure.
On Feb. 13, 1995, the Neals had the daughter they had long hoped for. Rome wanted to name her Kujichagulia in honor of the second principle of Kwanzaa, self-determination. He was voted down. They settled on Lia. She speaks fluent Cantonese and Mandarin.
Ireland: Father-of-two Stephen Redmond, a 47-year-old from Ballydehob, Co Cork, has become the first to complete a seven-channel bridge-the-world swim: the English Channel, the Catalina Channel near Los Angeles, the Strait of Gibraltar, the Cook Strait in New Zealand, the Moloka’i Channel between O’ahu and Moloka’i islands in Hawaii and the North Channel between Scotland and Ireland in the bag, he completed the Ocean’s Seven challenge by crossing the 19.5km Tsugaru Strait in Japan in 14 hours 24 minutes at the weekend. It was Mr Redmond’s fourth attempt to complete the strait, which lies between the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido.