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.


Maritza (Correia) McClendon was born on December 23rd, 1981 in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Guyanese parents, Vincent and Anne Correia. She has an older brother, Justin and two older half brothers, Jeremy and Veejay (deceased, Leukemia).

At the age of 7 she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis in which her doctor recommended she enroll into swim lessons or gymnastics as a medical remedy. Her parents decided to sign her up for summer swim lessons. She loved swimming so much that at the end of the summer Maritza asked her parents if she could join competitive swim team. She and her brother joined Loyola Swim team in Rio Piedras, PR. Her family moved to Tampa, FL just before her 9th birthday and 1st thing on the list was to find swim club. They joined Bluewave Swim and Tennis Club and would swim for Peter Banks for the next 18 years. 

Maritza went to Tampa Bay Tech High School. After a rough freshman year at the state championship and almost walking away from the sport, she managed to regroup, lean on positive energy to come back the next 3 years and win 6 state tiles in 5 different events (50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 500 free, and 200 IM). She was also named the Florida High School athlete of the year in 1998. Her performances earned her a swimming scholarship to University of Georgia to swim for Head Coach Jack Bauerle. 
Her freshman year at UGA, in 2000, she won the 200 freestyle at NCAA's making her one to watch to make the US Olympic Swim Team for the Sydney Games. That same NCAA's she was on the 4 x 100 medley relay that broke a world record, making her the first African American to break a world record.  After failing to make the Sydney Olympic games, McClendon fell into depression and seeked professional help.

Over the next 4 years she would go on to win a total of 11 NCAA titles, break two individual American Records (2002, making her the first woman of color to break an individual American Record), make the US National team each year and ultimately land a spot on the 2004 Olympic team for her 4th place at US Olympic trials. At the Olympic games in Athens, Greece she would earn a silver medal as a member of the 4 x 100 free relay. These two feats made her the first woman of color to make the US Olympic Swim team and medal. Plagued with shoulder issues she continued to push through the pain for an additional 3 years in hopes to bring home gold at the 2008 Olympic Games, but her dream would be cut short. She decided to retire from the sport to undergo double shoulder surgery for labral tears.

Maritza is now a wife and a mom of two. She was married on March 13th, 2010 to Chad McClendon. They have a son named Kason (4 years old) and a daughter named Sanaya (2 years old). Maritza and Chad have a powerful relationship guided by God. The two athletes met at college and continue to live an active lifestyle.  They make time to workout together, eat together, and play together as a family. Maritza loves to cook, clean, do yardwork, go to the gym, get her nails done, and never leaves the house without makeup. She been known to have a wicked shoe collection and loves to race cars, fast and the furious style. When she made the US Olympic swim team in 2004, she made history. She vowed from the day on to be a role model and has been true to her word. Her positive energy and the way she tells her story, will surely inspire you to do better and be better, no matter your age. 


• 2004 Olympic silver medal in 400m FR
• Three-Time World Champion
• First African American female swimmer to make US Olympic team and win a medal
• First African American to break a world record in swimming
• First African American female to hold American Records
• 11-Time NCAA Champion
• 27- Time NCAA All American
• Former American record holder in 50y freestyle and 100y freestyle
• Two-Time Pan American Game Gold Medalist
• Three medals at World Championships
• Four gold medals at 2005 World University Games
• 2014 USA Swimming Diversity and Inclusion Award recipient
• 2015 UGA Circle of Honor Inductee
• Blueprint for Success advisory board member
• Diversity in Aquatics advisory board member

Facing the Facts

Did you know...
  • About 10 people drown from unintentional drowing every day. 
  • 70% of African American children don't know how to swim and 60% of HIspanic/Latin children don't know how to swim.
  • Black children drown at a rate nearly 3 times higher than white children
  • If a parent doesn't know how to swim, there is only a 13% chance that a chld in that household will learn to swim. 
  • More than 1 in 5 fatal drowning victims are children under the age of 14. 
  • Participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowining by 88% among children 1-4 years old. 

Leaving a lasting impression to inspire change

Maritza has a passion to inspire others of all ages to do better and be better. Whether it's conquering your fear of water, or you need a little advice for the next step, or you just need a quick pick-me-up, she is always ready to be that encouraging voice in your corner.

She travels the country promoting the sport of swimming, the importance of learning to swim, and offers inspiration through her life story. Her medals may be tucked away safely at home, but when she is doing a speaking engaegment she is sure to pull them out and let the kids, and parents, hold the medals and take pictures with them. "Not everyone gets a chance to see and hold an Olympic medal and when they do, their eyes light up. I love seeing the extra inspiration the hardware offers."