By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

I'm sharing this because the young lady who is the focus of this article is Ms. LIA NEAL,  the daughter of a good friend/playwright/actor/artist/musician/and Banana Pudding Making Brother ROME NEAL.  I know that he is so proud of her.  He wrote so much about her participation in the Olympics a few years ago - and now she is a Silver Medalist.  

We are all so very proud of her and her accomplishments!! 

So I'm sharing her triumph here courtesy of  Ernst Perodin <ernstperodin@optonline.net> :


August 12, 2016 

Swimmer Lia Neal on Winning Silver in Rio & Life Inside Olympic Village
The two-time Team USA Olympian explains what it's ​really​ like to be part of the Olympics.

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      Lia Neal                                                                                                         

If you're a regular human, the odds of becoming one of Team USA's 554 Olympic athletes are slim to none.  The odds of returning for another Olympics are slimmer.  And returning to defend a medal in the same event is rarer still.  That's part of what makes Lia Neal such a BFD.

Neal is making her second Olympic appearance in Rio as part of Team USA women's swim team.  Back in 2012 when she was only 17, Neal earned a bronze medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.  Just this week, she got a silver medal in the same event.

Cosmopolitan.com chatted with Neal, a Brooklyn native and rising senior at Stanford, about the Olympic village — including the best spot for people-watching in the Olympic village (Hello, Simone Biles!) — those Tinder rumors, and why her Olympic schedule is so meticulous.

Congratulations on your second Olympic appearance! How does Rio compare to London?

London was such a blur for me because I was just so young.  I didn't know what to expect.  I had a lot of fun, and I was like, How will anything ever top that?!   But I've had so much fun this time around too! I think just being older has allowed me to form more bonds with the team.  I've just realized how great everyone is — this team really melds together well.

The Rio Games have been plagued with problems, before they even began: Some of the buildings were incomplete, there were security concerns, and, of course, Zika. What has your experience been like?

Going into these games, it has gotten a lot more media attention but the focus has only on the bad aspects.  We haven't really noticed very much of it because the U.S. Olympic Committee has taken such good care of us.  [All the Team USA athletes] live in the same building and as far as we're concerned, we have everything we need.  We have so many resources — we brought our own I.T. guy and we have two maintenance people that we flew out here just to take care of us.   So it's been great for us. Living hasn't been a hassle at all here because we've been taken care of.

What's life like inside the Olympic village?

There's not much to do in the village, because it's really about getting from point to point B.  Each country has their own building, so you're either in your building or in the dining hall.  There's this little part within the village where they have a P&G salon that does manicures and gives you hairstyles.

You see athletes everywhere but the dining hall is the premiere spot to really people watch.  Everyone has to go through the dining hall; it's one of the coolest places in the village, if not the coolest.  It's massive.  You're just sitting down, watching the world's best athletes walk by.


Usually, USA swimming eats together, maybe if there's a smaller group of us, then we'll join other American athletes.  Yesterday we were sitting next to golfers.

How is the food?

The food is fine, and it's gotten a lot better since the first day.  There have been more cooked vegetables.  Everything is cooked for longer than we're used to just to ensure that everything is safe enough to eat.  Salmon, chicken, steak [are all] a little drier than we're used to but still good. We [the USA Swimming team] have our own nutritionist.  She has really communicated with the Rio representatives to have better options, and she's working with the nutritionists from other countries to get feedback from their athletes to help relay what athletes need.  We're just trying to be as mindful of nutrition as possible.

There's also a McDonald's.  You see a lot of athletes on the line at McDonald's because sometimes McDonald's would be a better option for food than the dining hall. It tastes like home!

And what's been your favorite athlete sighting so far?

The first day, we saw the U.S. women's gymnastics team.  Not only was I star-struck, but I was sitting with the rest of our swim team and everyone is like, "Oh, my god, there they are!  They're so cute!  They're smaller in person!"

Is Tinder really a thing in Olympic village?

It was a thing in 2012 as well, but I only heard that afterward.  This time, my friends back home were like, "You should go on Tinder and just look at all the athletes on it!"  So a few of my friends here on the team and I were like, "Let's just make profiles and see who's on."  We found each other's teammates, like on our men's team.  No one's trying to find serious love on Tinder ... it's more fun to see people you recognize on it. Of course you're going to right swipe to everyone you know because it's just really funny.

Who are your roommates?

I'm in my room with Maya DiRado, who also went to Stanford.  She just won another bronze medal in the 200-meter individual medley and won a silver medal on our first day.  In the rest of our suite, we have Katie Ledecky, I can't even remember everything she's won — a bunch of medals and world records so far.

Simone Manuel is also in our suite, who [won gold in the] individual 100-meter freestyle, and she also got a silver with me in the relay.  We have Kathleen Baker, who got silver in the 100-meter backstroke , and Katie Meili, who got bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke.  Everyone in my suite has at least one medal, which is pretty cool.


Speaking of your roommate Simone Manuel, she made history on Thursday night as the first African American woman to ever win gold in an individual swimming event when she won the 100-meter freestyle.  But you and Simone were already making history for Team USA: It's the first time that two African American women have been on the swim team at the same time.  What does that mean to you?

I see "Black Girl Magic" all the time in reference to Simone and I.  It's great for the sport! I think people are still getting used to it, because we get mistaken for each other a lot, but that's cool.  I was more excited to watch Simone win gold than even for my own silver — it was amazing. She had the best swim of her life in the most perfect setting, making history while being an inspiration to everyone.  America is a melting pot, and to see the team reflect that is very telling of what America is all about.

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Sisters, teammates, & Olympic medalists @LiaNeal & @simone_manuel share a hug after a historic race! #SwimUnited

Let's talk about your event, the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, this year. What is your schedule like on a competition day?

There's a TV schedule that they have to follow, and so it's planned down to the minute.  [On the day of the relay,] I got to the pool around 12:45 p.m. and started stretching at 12:55 p.m. I got worked on, my shoulders loosened up, at 1:15 p.m., because we have our massage therapist with us too, which is really helpful.  At 1:25 p.m., I jumped rope for three to five minutes as part of my warm-up.  And then I'll actually get in the pool to warm up from 1:35 p.m. until around 2:40 p.m.  I change into my competition suit at 2:45 p.m. and warm up again just to loosen up any kinks.  At 3:14 p.m., we go into the call room, which they walk you through before you walk out to behind the box.  Then we raced at 3:29 p.m.

Michael Phelps has made headlines for the cupping marks on his back. Have you done cupping?

Yes, I've done cupping before.  Sometimes it's helpful when massages can't get those areas.  With massages, you press down trying to loosen knots, but with cupping, you're raising [the tension] up more to the surface.  It loosens it in another way.

Now that you're done competing, what's a typical day like for you in Rio?

I've signed up to watch some other events, like men's basketball, women's gymnastics, and, hopefully, trampoline — I think it would be cool to see that live.

I'm also excited that we still have a few more swim sessions, because watching swimming is so fun.  I get so excited watching everyone's race. I'm just going into cheer now, so I'll wake up at 11:30 a.m., get breakfast, and take the bus to the swim venue.  Competition in the morning starts at 1 p.m., and I watch that for, like, two hours.  Then, we come back to the village, have lunch, and hang out with the rest of the team.  We have a women's team meeting every night at 7:30 p.m. before everyone heads off to finals.  We cover logistics, but also offer insight and wisdom from [the team's] veterans to get each other ready to go.  Then, we'll go to the pool, depending on everyone's schedule, and we all watch the finals at 10 p.m. By the time we're back in the village and go to dinner, it's like 2:30 a.m.


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Watching can be so much more nerve-wracking than actually competing!

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In the past few days, I've also walked around the village just to scope it out.  Before you swim, it's not suggested that you walk too much because you need to save your energy.  Now that I'm done, I can expend my energy like that.

As if winning silver isn't enough, your relay team also made it on the cover of the New York Times.

I didn't even know that was happening!  It was cool.  I saw it through Allison Schmitt, another girl on my relay.  I saw her Instagram and she tagged me and I was like, Woah!  This happened?  I have some family back home in New York and I was like, "Make sure you get this copy!"

What will you do with your two Olympic medals?

My bronze is just sitting in its box in my room!  I'll probably put this silver one next to it.

What's next for you?

I start school again in September for my senior year.  I'll just be doing my senior year and still swimming.  That's all I have figured out so far!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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