Winning with talent, swimming with Heart

Inspired by fellow Sacred Heart Olympic swimmer, sophomore Jordan Cohen puts hours into achieving her personal best.
courtesy of Jordan Cohen ’15

Thanks to the efforts of one of Convent of the Sacred Heart’s own, the United States women’s Olympic swimming team managed to bring home a bronze medal in the women’s 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay, at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Senior Lia Neal, of Convent of the Sacred Heart 91 Street, swam her heart out at the Olympics. As a member of a four person relay team, she earned the right to call herself an Olympic athlete.
However, Lia did not become an Olympian overnight. According to the The New York Times, Lia began her daily four hours of practice at 5 am to 7 am, and completed the following two after school. On top of four hours of swimming each day, Lia had to juggle her schoolwork as well.
Many experienced swimmers and coaches can only imagine the amount of dedication and sacrifice it takes to make it in the Olympics.
“Lia has sacrificed a lot. The normal things a teenager would do on the weekends, be it going out to get a manicure or pedicure or going to the movies with her friends, are the things that Lia had to sacrifice,” Ms. Maura O’Grady, Assistant Dean of Students of the Upper School and Head Swim Coach for the Middle and Upper School, said.
Despite the sacrifice it takes to commit to a sport of Olympic standards, Lia’s parents, Rome and Siu Neal encouraged her that anything was possible.
“You let them try different sports, then find out what they like and then they can pursue that like, not necessarily to be a big success, but something to carry with them for a lifetime,” Lia’s mother, Siu Neal, said to The New York Times.
For many swimmers at Convent of the Sacred Heart Greenwich, Lia is an inspiration, but sophomore Jordan Cohen recognizes that the rigorous schedule of an Olympian may not be for everyone.
“If it was possible to be in the Olympics I think it would be an amazing opportunity, but knowing the intensity and devotion any Olympian has, I’m not sure it’s what I personally want,” Jordan said. “There are a lot of other things I want to accomplish in my life.”
Not only has Lia brought home an Olympic medal, but she was also awarded a $3,805 scholarship from the Swim for the Future Scholarship foundation according to Black Entertainment Television. This scholarship helped fund her training at Manhattan’s Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics, and lowered the financial expenses on her parents for training an Olympian.
For aspiring Sacred Heart swimmers and athletes alike, Lia’s success is motivational not only because of her achievements as an athlete, but also because she, too, is a part of the Sacred Heart Network.
“I think that it’s really cool having another student from Sacred Heart going to the Olympics because it seems like all these people are so talented and far off from the level we are on,” Jordan said. “But when its another Sacred Heart student, or even just another student in high school, it makes you feel like it is possible to get where they are.”
– Molly Geisinger, Staff Writer