American swimmer and Olympic silver medallist Lia Neal joined some 30 youth from the SportCares Swimming Programme last Monday in an exclusive swim clinic that was made possible with the support of U.S. Embassy Singapore.
Lia Neal leading the SportCares swimming clinic made possible through the U.S. Embassy. Photo: SportSG
Neal, who was in Singapore to participate in the recently concluded FINA/Airweave Swimming World Cup 2017, engaged the SportCares youth in a sharing session where she recounted her life story from a young swimmer to become only the second African-American to make the U.S. Olympic swim team – a journey that revealed dedication, persistence and passion.
She also took the pool with the youth where she taught them proper breathing and stroke techniques that will help them become stronger and faster swimmers.
To 14 year-old SportCares youth Muhd Fatris Ihsan, Lia Neal’s story was truly an inspiration.
American swimmer and Olympic silver medallist Lia Neal takes a group photo with participants of the swimming clinic. Photo: SportSG
“Hearing how early Ms. Neal has to wake up every day in order for her to become an Olympian, I now realise that achieving my dream to swim as well as her will require me to practice harder so that I’m pushed to my limits.”
11 year-old Valerie Foo felt the same way too. “Ms. Neal was really helpful when she taught my friends and I how to become better swimmers. I feel very lucky and happy to be able to participate in this clinic. And after listening to her story, it has inspired me to work harder, not only in swimming, but in school too.”
For SportCares, having a world class athlete like Lia Neal engaging and interacting with the youth in its programme, is truly a golden opportunity that will always be treasured.
“There is something inside of elite athletes that drives them to keep pushing past their limits in the pursuit of a championship title or podium finish,” said Brendon Yam, Assistant Director, SportCares Foundation.
Lia Neal (centre) sharing her experiences with kids at the SportCares swimming clinic. Photo: SportSG
“I believe athletes are an invaluable social resource, who play a critical role, not only in inspiring our youth to pursue their dreams, but in using the universal language of sport to do better,” he added.
Reflecting after the clinic, Neal said: “I love just seeing how much [the youths] enjoyed swimming, because after being in the sport for so long, you [can sometimes] forget to enjoy it.”
“I just want to be able to help [these youths] do well in the sport that they love, and really get the message out about how important swimming is, and how it builds character. I hope they all stick with it in the years to come,” she shared.