This past Saturday, 17 year old Lia Neal took fourth place in 100-meter freestyle finals in Omaha, Neb. Making her the second African-American woman to make a U.S. Olympic swim team.
Neal’s win represented not only a personal victory, but a step toward diversifying the team of American swimmers heading to London later this month.
According to The New York Times, the U.S. swim team has never had more than one team member of African-American descent and Ervin became the first ever in 2000. Anthony Ervin, whose father is of African-American and American-Indian descent, came in one-hundredth of a second behind gold medalist Cullen Jones, joining Neal as the third African-American swimmer on the 2012 U.S. team.
“It’s a pretty big title,” Neal told the Washington Post. She said she knew about her predecessor Maritza Correia, a silver medalist in the 4×100 freestyle relay in 2004, going into Saturday’s race, but never thought she’d be the second black female swimmer to make the team.
Swimming isn’t the only Olympic category where African Americans are making strides. On Saturday, African-American gymnast Gabrielle Douglas earned a guaranteed Olympic women’s gymnastics spot by winning the trials over reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber before a sold-out crowd in San Jose, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reports.