Two-Time Olympic Medalist Lia Neal Announces Retirement From Swimming

Longtime top American freestyler sprinter and two-time Olympic medalist Lia Neal has announced her retirement from competitive swimming, revealing the news with an Instagram post on Wednesday.

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.”

You can read the full post below:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by lia maria neal (@lia_neal)

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.”

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

I always loved watching Lia race.
I remember when she led Stanford to that national championship and in Greg’s interview afterward he said how much of an impact she has and that the whole team was doing it for Lia.

Good luck in the next chapter !

1 month ago

I was hoping Lia Neal would give it one last attempt at the 2021 Olympic Team Trials.

Good luck on your future endeavors!

1 month ago

Good luck to Lia on the next chapter in her life!

Always loved watching her swim…had a very consistent career

1 month ago

Congratulations on such an amazing career, such an inspiration to all people.

small bird
1 month ago

what an absolute hero. god bless.

1 month ago

What an awesome career… breaking barriers and inspiring so many others.

Though nowhere near her greatest accomplishment, it still BLOWS my mind that a 10 year old girl could have the power and speed to go 24. in the 50 free.

Last edited 1 month ago by Penguin
Sam B
1 month ago

I guess that’s good bye to San Diego too 🙁

Reply to  Sam B
1 month ago

I’m obviously out of the loop here a bit. What is it about San Diego that you’re referencing here regarding her now retirement? Is there perhaps a high caliber meet being held there in the near future? (Just in how I’m interpreting this, but I’m under the assumption you’re referencing something taking place in San Diego PRIOR to the upcoming Olympic trials, that she was to be in attendance for?). And I’m only making that assumption based on the fact that it sounds very much by her post as though regardless of whether she made the Olympic trials and regardless of whether she made the team and went to tokyo, she was going to be retiring right after either the… Read more »

Reply to  Parker
1 month ago

She had switched from training at Stanford to training with Team Elite in San Diego – I think Sam B is assuming that she will be moving away from San Diego now that she is no longer training.

Sam B
Reply to  swimswamswum
1 month ago

yes, TE in SD

1 month ago

Woah, this is surprising!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »