Maritza Correia was the first African-American (with Puerto Rican heritage) swimmer from the United States to set an American and world swimming record in the Olympics. Nicknamed the “Ritz,” Correia was diagnosed with scoliosis in 1988. At the suggestion of her physician, she began swimming at age 8 and never left the pool.
In high school, Correia was a six-time Florida high school champion in five different events. The University of Georgia graduate was a 27-time All-American athlete and part of the Lady Bulldogs swim team.
Less than 10 years after being diagnosed with a spine abnormality, Correia was competing on the junior national team in Sweden, before heading to the 2001 Japan Olympics where she left with a gold medal in the 800M freestyle event. Two years later, Correia earned a gold medal swimming in the 400m free relay prelim at the World Championships, and in 2004, she earned an Olympic silver medal in the 400m free relay prelim in Athens.
Correia was the first African-American female to dive into the Olympic pools, making waves for new champion swimmer Lia Neal who will be competing on the 400 freestyle relay team. Neal is of black and Asian decent. She will head to London to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
The trials of Correia and male Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones is told in the documentary film "Parting the Waters," which focuses on a new generation of competitive black and Latino swimmers.