- NAME: Maritza Correia
- OCCUPATION: Professional Swimmer
- BIRTH DATE: December 23, 1981 (Age: 31)
- Did You Know?: In 2002, Maritza Correia became the first black female swimmer to break an American record. She is also the first black woman to make it onto the U.S. Olympic swimming team.
- EDUCATION: University of Georgia, Tampa Bay Technical High School
- PLACE OF BIRTH: San Juan, Puerto Rico
- ZODIAC SIGN: Capricorn
Best Known For
In 2002, Maritza Correia made history when she became the first black woman to break an American record. She later became the first black woman to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic swim team.
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Born in Puerto Rico in 1981, Maritza Correia is the first black female swimmer to break an American record, setting new records in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events at the Women's NCAA Championships in 2002. Two years later, Correia became the first black woman to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic swim team.
"Probably about 1 percent of the U.S. swimmers are black, so it gives you an incentive to go out there and show them that we can do it, too."
"I swam for 20 years ... I'm proud of what I accomplished."
"The one thing that got me through it was that I had the collegiate season right after the Olympics ... being around my teammates and having their support along with my coaches helped me pull out of it."
Born on December 23, 1981, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Maritza Correia is best known for being the first black woman to make the U.S. Olympic swimming team and the first black female swimmer to break an American record. An inspiration to many in the world of competitive sports, Correia grew up in Florida with her parents and two older brothers. Athletics runs in the family. From Guyana, and of Afro-Latin American descent, her parents were educated in England, where her mother played tennis at the University of London, and her father was on the crew team.
At the suggestion of her doctor, Correia started swimming when she was just 7 years old. She had scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, and swimming helped mitigate the effects of her disorder. Initially therapeutic, swimming soon became Correia's passion.
In 1990, Correia joined the Brandon Blue Wave Swim Club, following in the footsteps of older brother Justin. The siblings were sometimes the only black athletes competing in their events. "Probably about 1 percent of U.S. swimmers are black, so it gives you an incentive to go out there and show them that we can do it, too," Correia later said.
At Tampa Bay Technical High School, Correia continued to compete, becoming one of the state's top swimmers. She won the 100-meter freestyle event at the Florida state championships four times and made the 1997 national junior swim team. In 1999, Correia became the U.S. national champion of 50-meter freestyle event for swimmers aged 18 or younger. She graduated high school that year and moved up to college-level swimming competitions while attending the University of Georgia.
After a failed attempt to make the 2000 U.S. Olympic swim team, Correia slipped into a depression, which lasted several months. "The one thing that got me through it was that I had the collegiate season right after the Olympics ... being around my teammates and having their support along with my coaches helped me pull out of it," she told the St. Petersburg Times in 2008.
Getting back on track, Correia began a training regime consisting of swimming 14,000 meters per day, six days a week. This meant she spent about five hours in the water each day. Her hard work paid off, as she won gold and silver at the 2001 World Championships, in the 800-meter freestyle relay and the 400-meter freestyle relay, respectively. She went on to set two records at the 2002 Women's NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle events—making her the first black woman to set an American record. The following year, Correia brought home another gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the World Championships.
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