Life Beyond the Blocks

Life is different for everyone, yet we can all learn from one another's experiences.
I'm here to share mine and hope it can inspire yours.

Who am I?

My name is Maritza and I am a 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist in swimming. I am the 1st woman of color to make US Olympic Swim team and medal. I am married to Chad and we have two kids, our son Kason (5 yrs old) and our daughter Sanaya (3 yrs old).
I was bron in San Juan, Puerto Rico, then moved with my family to Florida when I was 9 years old, then attended the University of Georgia at 17. I graduated in 2005 as a 27-time All American, won 11 NCAA titles, became the first woman of color to break an individual American record and a World Record. After college I turned pro and traveled the country representing Team USA til I retired from the sport after 20 years of competitive swimming.

Now I'm working full time in corporate America, raising two kids with my husband, and travel the country spreading the importance of learning to swim especially in the Black communities. By and by this journey is hectic, fun, exhausting, and rewarding all at the same time. Come check out how I, somehow, make it all work.

This is my purpose

In 2004 I became the 1st woman of color to earn a spot on the US Olympic Swim Team and I came home with a silver medal. In my mind I thought it was a big deal, but I didnt get that vibe from many people and slowly felt forgotten. I started to believe that my silver medal and history making feat wasn't so grand after all.

In 2013, I entered the door of opportunity to connect with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. As the spokeswoman for Swim1922, I traveled the country educating the black communities about the importance of learning to swim, offereing free swim clinics, and sharing the story of who I am. Fast forward to 2017 when one of our Philos stood up to ask me one question with tears in her eyes, "Do you know what you mean to us?" It was then I truly realized how powerful it is to be a trail blazer, a strong black woman, and what I'm doing is making a diffence.

Over the years I have dealt with dissappointment and success and all the things in between. I may have been discouraged time and time again, but I continued to get back up and try again. I tell myself, and others, to take any negative situation and turn it into something positive. Life is full of lessons, open your eyes, listen and learn.

I inspire by sharing my journey without sparing any details in hopes that I can inspire generations before me and after me.


  1. No I don't diet, I'm active.
    15 Mar, 2016
    No I don't diet, I'm active.
    It amazes me how many people look at me and think I'm a health nut simply because I'm  a fit mom of 2. I know we live in an era where fitness, dieting, and body image are everything. But is it really that hard to believe that I don't diet, I don't take supplements, I don't skip meals (on purpose), and I don't eat like a bird??? Last week my mother in law went out and bought a ton of lettuce and chicken. She grilled all the chicken and chopped up the lettuce. A week went by and barely and of the
  2. Ferguson, MO from negative chatter to positive inspiring words
    04 Mar, 2016
    Ferguson, MO from negative chatter to positive inspiring words
    It's that time of the season again... regional conferences for Sigma Gamma Rho. Our first stop is St. Louis, MO. Soror Shaw, a teacher at Airport Elementary school in Ferguson, MO, helped organize for me to speak to her class. That quickly turned into speaking to the entire school, some 275 students in grades Kindergarten to 5th grade. We arrived at the school at 8am and to my surprise the kids created a back drop in the gym for my arrival. The backdrop was so beautiful. They highlighted the
  3. Househunting... Fun or not so much?
    29 Feb, 2016
    Househunting... Fun or not so much?
    Back in 2004 before I made the Olympic team, I made the commitment to buy a house in Athens, GA. I was so proud of myself for being able to buy my first house at 22 on my athlete salary... and the price of what I got was amazing! 2000 sq ft, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2 car garage, fenced in backyard, and bonus room for just $152K. Now let's fast forward to 2016. My family has moved from Portland, OR, we are crashing at my mother-in-laws in a 3 bedroom one story house. Weekly, my son is asking if he
  4. The Love story you want to read about... and it's real.
    14 Feb, 2016
    The Love story you want to read about... and it's real.
    Where do I begin... to talk about my love, Chad McClendon. So many words I can use to describe this wonderful blessing God brought into my life at just the right times. And yes I say times, with an "s" because it took a few run ins before we actually became one. Our best man at our wedding said it best. Our wedding day was a love story 9 years in the making. Our story, for me, began in 2005 when I had a class with Chad's best friend, Josh Reid. Josh was Chad's roommate and teammate in college.
  5. Walking among the best Bulldogs ever
    13 Feb, 2016
    Walking among the best Bulldogs ever
    I remember it like it was yesterday. The day I called my soon-to-be college coach, Jack Bauerle, to tell him I wanted to commit to the G. When I earned a college scholarship to swim at the University of Georgia, all I could think about it how excited I was to get to swim at UGA. I never imagined I would be inducted into the Circle of Honor, the highest recognition a former UGA athlete could receive. My name will forever be engraved in the circle of honor at the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall on
  6. The scariest decision of my life.. so far.
    29 Jan, 2016
    The scariest decision of my life.. so far.
    I will start out by saying I loved my job. I got to work on the iconic brand Nike... and in my sport- Swimming! Life couldn't be better, right? My decision to put in my 2-week notice in Oct of 2015 went far beyond what anyone ever knew. When I got passed up on a promotion twice (due to budgets the second time), realizing Portland was not the city for me not to mention expensive to live in, and my family was thousands of miles away, the decision became clearer. While I still wonder if Chad and I
  7. It's Official, I'm the 2016 Swim1922 Spokewoman
    28 Jan, 2016
    It's Official, I'm the 2016 Swim1922 Spokewoman
    Well it's official!!! I'm the 2016 spokeswoman for USA Swimming's Swim1922 partnership with Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. The initiative's goal is to lower drowning rates within the African American community by hosting swim clinics (dry and/or wet) throughout the year at the sororities regional conferences, national conferences, and special events hosted by chapters. We also host in-water clinics at the AT&T USA Swimming Nationals which has been a great way to expose my Sorors to the