AUSTIN (KXAN) — Your chance to meet the first African-American woman to make the US Olympic Swim Team is coming up this Friday.
A swim safety clinic and meet and greet, hosted by USA Swimming, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, will feature Maritza McClendon, the 2004 silver Olympic medalist in the 4×100 meter freestyle.
Swim 1922, a collaboration between Sigma Gamma Rho and USA Swimming, is working to promote healthy living and lifestyles, as well as diversifying competitive swimming.
The group says, historically, competitive swimming has presented many systemic and institutional barriers that limit people of color from participating. “We believe these barriers have perpetuated a stigma that people of color do not know how to swim, are not willing to learn how to swim, and if a child was in danger, there is a high probability that the parent would not be able to intervene.”
The statistics are alarming, they say. Drowning is one of the top five leading causes of unintentional death and injury in the United States and about 10 people die from unintentional drowning every day.
McClendon, born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, was diagnosed at seven years old with severe scoliosis. Her doctors recommended swimming classes as a treatment.
That was in 1988. Sixteen years later, McClendon was making history at the Olympic Games in Athens.
The meet and greet will take place at Given Parks, at 3811 E. 12th St. in Austin, at 10 a.m.