Black swimmers Simone Manuel, Lia Neal,(pictured, bottom middle) and Natalie Hinds achieved history recently by sweeping the NCAA Women’s Division I Championship. Manuel and Neal, both students at Stanford University, and the University of Florida’s Hinds, are the latest in a long line of history-making Black swimmers. The International Swimming Hall Of Fame has compiled a working list of Black swimmers who have accomplished various achievement in the sport.
Maritza Correia (now McClendon), (pictured, top middle) an Afro-Latin woman born in Puerto Rico and raised in Florida, became the first Black woman to break an American swim record in 2002. She made history once more by joining the U.S. Olympic team, helping the squad take home the silver during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. She now works as a senior marketing manager for Nike Swim.
Her one-time boyfriend, Cullen Jones, (pictured) also a world-class swimmer, is the second African-American to share or hold a world record in swimming and the third person of African descent to make a U.S. Olympic swim team. He helped Team USA bring home a gold in the 4x 100 relay at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He is now a motivational speaker and aspiring fashion designer.
However, Anthony Ervin, who is biracial, predates his accomplishments, as he is the first Black American to win a gold medal in swimming in the Olympic Games doing so in 2000 in Sydney. He is now training for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
But Anthony Nesty is the first swimmer overall of African descent to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games, doing so for Suriname in the 100 fly at the 1998 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. He is now the associate head men’s coach for the Florida Gators men’s swim team.
Enith Brigitha (pictured, left) of the Netherlands is the first Black woman to medal in swimming at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, winning a bronze. But Brigitha should have been placed higher as she competed against East German women swimmers later found to be doping. Boston University swimmer Sybil Smith became the first Black woman to place in the top 10 during a NCAA final in 1988.
Nate Clark of Ohio State became the first Black swimmer to score in a NCAA final in 1962. The first Black swimmer to be added to the U.S. National Team was the late Chris Silva, who became team captain in 1982. One of the most talented swimmers of his era, Silva died in a tragic auto accident in 1990 while driving in Florida.
And just last year, Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson became the first Black woman to win a world title in swimming, winning gold in the 100 m breaststroke at the world short course swimming championship in Doha.
While some might know that former Atlanta mayor and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young was a competitive swimmer as a young man, few knew that he was the first Black swimmer to win the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s Gold Medallion award. The Gold Medallion is given to former competitive swimmers who have gone on to recognition in government, the sciences, the arts and other fields.
(Photos: Cullen Jones Twitter, USA Swimming)