3 Black Swimmers Make Olympic History

3 Black Swimmers Make Olympic History
Lia Neal, left, during the medal ceremony for the women's 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials.

For the first time in American history, three black swimmers will join the Olympic team when it travels to compete in the London games this summer. One swimmer comes from a city where the vast majority of her ethnicity do not swim, while another learned after nearly drowning as a child

Native New Yorker Lia Neal, 17, placed fourth in the Olympic trials, becoming just the second African American woman to join a U.S. swim team ever.

What makes her feat all the more remarkable is the fact that some 70 of African American children in New York do not know how to swim despite being practically surrounded by large bodies of water, the Washington Post reports.

3 Black Swimmers Make Olympic HistoryOn the men’s side, swimmer 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. men’s team, the New York Times reports.

“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 she never believed she would become the second black female swimmer to make the team.

Cullen, who is the face of Make a Splash program that encourages minorities to swim, learned to swim after he nearly lost his life when he almost drowned at an amusement park when he was six years old.

3 Black Swimmers Make Olympic History
Cullen Jones is going to the London Olympics, long after nearly drowning when he was 6 years old

“I always hear so many stories from different people, even in my own family, where they’ve had such bad experiences with being in the water and swimming that I can really relate. I can sit back and go: ‘This is what happened to me. I completely get it. But that’s never a reason for you not to learn how to swim.’ You see a lot of that, especially in the African-American community.”

In related news, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Gabrielle Douglas earned her spot on the gymnastics team by coming up with a surprising win at the trials over favorite Jordyn Wieber in San Jose, Calif.

— terry shropshire

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