NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A local Olympic champion got a hero’s welcome Friday at the local pool where she’s trained for years. It’s a bronze for Brooklyn and an inspiration to millions.
With cheers of “USA, USA” hundreds packed the bleachers at Asphalt Green on the Upper East Side to welcome home Lia Neal, who just captured the bronze medal in the freestyle relay.
1010 WINS’ Stan Brooks reports
“Just non-stop smiling, so happy and my parents were so happy,” Neal told reporters, including CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu.
“It was ‘marv-tastic,’ that’s marvelous-fantastic,” added Rome Neal, Lia’s father.
“I’m very, very proud, yeah,” added her mother, Siu Neal.
WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell reports
Lia Neal lives in Brooklyn and started swimming at 6 years old and breaking records at 10. She and her family said they hope all the attention the bronze is getting will encourage more people in minority communities to learn to swim.
“It’s an uplifting spirit she’s brought to the city, to the community for young people to want to go into the water,” Rome Neal said.
Lia Neal is in the water for practice at 5:30 in the morning, and then heads to class where she’ll be starting her senior year in high school. She said the whole journey has been a family affair and she broke down in tears talking about them.
“They don’t know how much they mean to me,” she said.
After this emotional journey to London, Lia said she will finally get a break for two weeks from the water, but then she’ll be getting back to training – and inspiring a lot of little ones.
“I feel like I can be like her and I can be in the Olympics one day and get a bronze medal,” 9-year-old Ashley Altruda said.
“It’s so like fun to see an actual Olympian being at a camp and seeing her,” said 6-year-old Sam Markowitz, who added when told Lia trains right here in Brooklyn, “Really? Oh my God!”
And her little fans plan to keep cheering her on for years to come.
Lia Neal said she plans to make another big splash at the Olympics in Rio in 2016.
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