A Look Back At African-American Swimmers Making History

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The accomplishments of the US Swimming Teams in Rio were nothing short of amazing. It was fun to watch and made us all proud. And because a couple of our finest moments were accomplished by African-American swimmers, it inspired a look back at the history African-Americans have in swimming in the United States.

Maritza Correia McClendon was the first African-American female swimmer to set an American and world swimming record (2002, NCAA championships, 50 and 100 Free); First African-American Female to make the US Olympic Swim team (2004); First black female swimmer to win a NCAA Division I Championship (2002, Georgia, 50 Free); First African-American female to win an Olympic medal (2004 Olympic Games, 400 Free Relay).

Cullen Jones was the first African-American male to hold a world record in swimming as a member of the 4x100m during the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, British Columbia. Maritza was also the first African-American female swimmer to set an American and world swimming record (2002, NCAA championships, 50 and 100 Free); First African-American Female to make the US Olympic Swim team (2004); First black female swimmer to win a NCAA Division I Championship (2002, Georgia, 50 Free); First African-American female to win an Olympic medal (2004 Olympic Games, 400 Free Relay).

Andrew Young was the first black swimmer to receive The International Swimming Hall of Fame’s medallion of honor (1952-1956, Howard University).

Nate Clark was the first black swimmer to score in an NCAA Championship final (1962, Ohio state, 200 Fly).

Fred Evans was the first black swimmer to win a national collegiate championship (Chicago State, 1975, 100 Breast).

Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands was the first swimmer of African descent to win an Olympic medal (1976, Montreal, 100 Free).

Chris Silva was the first African-American swimmer to make the U.S. National team (Team Captain, UCLA, 1982).

Sybil Smith was the first black female swimmer to score in an NCAA final (1988, Boston University, 100 Back).

Anthony Nesty was the first swimmer of African descent to win an Olympic gold medal (1988, Seoul, 100 Fly); First male swimmer of African descent to win an NCAA Div. I Championship (1990-1992, 100 Fly).

Sabir Muhammad was the first black swimmer to set an American record (1997, Stanford University, 100 Fly).

Alison Terry was the first black female swimmer to make a U.S. national team (1999, Pan American Games).

Anthony Ervin was the first black swimmer to make a U.S. Olympic swimming team (2000 Sydney Olympic Games). Anthony won a gold medal in the men’s 50-meter freestyle 16 years after winning his first gold medal in the same event in Sydney.

Alia Atkinson was the first black woman to win a world title in swimming (2015, 100 m breaststroke, world short course swimming championship, Doha).

Simone Manuel (Stanford) was the first of three African-Americans to place in the top three spots at the 100-yard freestyle in any Women’s Division I NCAA Swimming Championship: Lia Neal (Stanford) was second, and Natalie Hinds (Florida) was third (2015). Simon won gold in Rio in the women’s 100-meter freestyle making her the first African-American woman to win an individual Gold Medal in Olympic Swimming.

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