In 1988, when Maritza McClendon began swimming as a treatment for scoliosis, the seven-year-old Afro-Latina craved a role model in the sport that looked like her.
Years later, McClendon became one of the most decorated NCAA swimmers in history. Individual American and world swimming records followed. In 2004, she won a silver medal at the Olympics and was the first Puerto Rican of African descent to be a member of the U.S. Olympic team.
In an interview with DiversityInc, McClendon spoke about her childhood, Afro-Latina heritage, legendary accomplishments and her mission to educate Black and brown people about the importance of learning how to swim.