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When it comes to sports (and music, for that matter) Brooklyn has lots to cheer about. The thoroughest borough is home to the newly minted Brooklyn Nets, and now they can count swimmer Lia Neal as a hometown sports hero. The 17-year-old will carry the torch for the  BK at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, after finishing fourth in the 100-meter freestyle finals Saturday (June 30). The feat earned Neal a spot on the women’s 400 freestyle relay team with a time of 54.33, placing her behind 25-year-old, Jessica Hardy.

“I feel Lia is blessed,” said her mother, Sui Neal, who is of Chinese-American descent. The Fort Greene native is the youngest of four, and fluent in English and Cantonese. Over the last six years, she has also studied Mandarin and began taking swim lessons at the young age of six. “I was hoping she would have gotten to the top four. She seemed kind of nervous, but she wanted it bad. She wanted to do well and earn her spot. I just thank God for it.”

Given her bi-racial background, her father, Jerome, sees his daughter as representative for both cultures. “It’s a strong sense of pride to know that she represents both her heritages of African-American and Chinese descent. It was surely exhilarating and a wonderful, wonderful feeling of joy and achievement for her. I felt very happy for her to make this triumph in her life.”

The summer Olympics begin July 27.



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