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better know an olympian

Better Know an Olympian: Lia Neal

OMAHA, NE - JULY 01:  Lia Neal gets set for the start of preliminary heat 15 of the Women's 50 m Freestyle during Day Six of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials at CenturyLink Center on July 1, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) The Official 2012 Olympics Athlete of The Sports Section.

The Olympics begin in less than two weeks, and you will spend a fortnight obsessing over athletes and sports you won't think about again for another four years. (If then.) To prepare you for the big games o' London, we're showcasing a different athlete every weekday until they begin. Today: Lia Neal.

Name: Lia Neal
Nationality: USA
Sport:
Swimming

Previous Olympic experience: None.

You might know her from: Pretty much every Local Angle piece in every segment of local media. Neal's story is a great one: Born and raised in Brooklyn, her parents schlepped her to Manhattan and back every day for practice and school (at 17, Neal's a student at the Convent of the Sacred Heart on the Upper East Side), rare in the world of Olympic training. (Most of these athletes are essentially home-schooled by swimming academies in Florida and California.) If you don't know her yet, you're going to love her.

Most embarrassing public moment: Nothing yet, though we bet someone at her school finds a picture of her in braces from a couple of years ago or something.

Most proud public moment: Simply qualifying. She was not expected to make the team this year, but coming in fourth in the 100-meter freestyle put her on the relay team. She's the second African-American swimmer ever to reach the games.

What to expect from her this year: She's only in that one event, but that relay team has a legitimate chance to medal, though they're not the favorites.

Odds that you'll remember her name in four years: We've decided to make her the Official 2012 Olympic Athlete of The Sports Section, so if we have anything to say about it, absolutely. Follow her on Twitter before it's cool to follow her on Twitter.

Previously:
Michael Phelps
Kim Rhode

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Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images