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In 2004, athlete Maritza Correia made history as the first African-American woman to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic Swim Team. She later became the first African-American woman to break an American record.
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She helped secure the silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. As her winning streak continued, Correia won four gold medals at the 2005 World University Games in 50-meter freestyle, 400-meter freestyle relay, 800-meter freestyle relay and 400-meter medley relay.
Eventually all of the years of strenuous activities began to take it toll on Correia. Even before her Olympic triumph, she had pain in her shoulders. Correia made an impressive showing at the 2007 Pan American Games despite her physical problems, bringing home the gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay and the 400-meter medley relay. In December 2007, she swam in her final event, the USA Nationals, before retiring from the sport. Correia has arthritis in her right shoulder and rotator cuff problems in both shoulders. "I swam for 20 years. . . . I'm proud of what I accomplished," she told the St. Petersburg Times.
While her records in the 50-yard and 100-yard events have been broken, Correia remains a groundbreaking force in the world of competitive swimming. She continues to promote the sport as a spokesperson for USA Swimming and for the Women's Sports Foundation, which was created by another female sports pioneer, tennis great Billie Jean King. Traveling around the country, Correia often discusses her experiences with inner-city kids and encourages them to give swimming a try. She also continues to work with her sponsor Nike to promote their swimwear line.
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