The first African American woman to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic swim team, on which she won a silver medal in the 2004 games in Athens, Maritza McClendon rounds the Franklin College graduates in the 2017 class of the Alumni Association 40 Under 40:
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.
In 2004, Correia made history as the first black woman to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic swim team. She helped secure the silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Correia's winning streak continued: She took four gold medals at the 2005 World University Games, in the 50-meter freestyle, 400-meter freestyle relay, 800-meter freestyle relay and 400-meter medley relay.
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.
All we can say is, "Wow." A truly inspiring alumna, Olympian, American. Congratulations to Mrs. McClendon and continued success in her many endeavors. Come back to campus and visit soon!