Neal, 26, represented the United States at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, winning a bronze in London on the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay and then winning a silver in the same event in Rio.
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Neal was also a five-time Long Course World Championship medalist, including two gold, and a six-time Short Course World Championship medalist, including four gold.
Neal’s Instagram post was a video of herself being interviewed at the age of 12, saying her goals were to go to the Olympics and “maybe even get a medal there.”
“Thank you, Swimming, for taking this little Blasian girl from Brooklyn with Olympic dreams to places from Guam to Budapest and everywhere in between,” wrote Neal. “More importantly, thank you for allowing me to meet all the amazing people along the way. 12-year-old Lia would have never imagined all the opportunities swimming would offer.
“Every win, loss, breakdown, laugh, celebration, and hour spent staring at a black line over the last 20 years shaped me into the person I am today and for that I’m grateful.”
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In addition to representing the U.S. at the last two Olympic Games, Neal has also been on three straight World Championship teams, including winning a bronze medal in 2019 on the 400 free relay.
She most recently competed in Budapest during the 2020 International Swimming League season, appearing in four matches for the league champion Cali Condors. She also competed during the 2019 season for the NY Breakers.
Inside the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying period, which began in November 2018, Neal’s fastest swims in the long course 50 and 100 freestyle were 25.45 and 55.43, respectively.
Collegiately, Neal was an eight-time NCAA champion at Stanford University, competing with the Cardinal from 2013-2017, helping the school to its first Women’s NCAA title since 1998 in her senior year.
Neal is of African-American and Chinese-American descent, and has committed to bring more diversity to the sport of swimming. She has been involved with USA Swimming’s ‘Make a Splash’ Initiative, and is currently one of the leaders of “Swimmers For Change”, which aims to provide a platform for the swimming community to raise awareness for the Black Lives Matter movement while working towards combating systemic racism in the U.S.
“Though I won’t be competing anymore, I’ll remain closely involved with the sport in other ways, through @swimmersforchange and serving on the boards of various swim-related organizations,” Neal continued in her Instagram post.
Neal was also apart of an important historical moment in the sport in 2015, when she was on the podium of the women’s 100 freestyle at the NCAA Championships alongside teammate Simone Manuel and the University of Florida’s Natalie Hinds – making the top three finishers all of African-American descent.
“I can’t wait to finally be a spectator of Olympic Trials for the first time in 13 years and cry along with everyone achieving their own dreams. What a special time.”