Swimmer of Guyanese parentage makes US Olympic team
By Leeron Brumell
July 18, 2004
MARTIZA ‘the Quiet Assassin’ Correia has become the first black woman to qualify for the US Olympic swimming team and what compounds her joy is that she is of Guyanese parentage.
She finished fourth in the US swimming trials to book a place in the 400m freestyle relay team for Athens.
Correia said she wanted to be a role model for minorities, hoping her success would open up a sport, which is dominated by white swimmers.
In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Correia said "I'm amazed, I'm shocked, I'm happy. It's a great honour - I hope I'm one of many," she said.
Correia is only the second black swimmer to make a US Olympic team, following Anthony Ervin.
He tied with teammate Gary Hall Jr. for gold in the 50m freestyle at the 2000 Sydney Games then retired earlier this year.
Ervin, who has a white mother, downplayed his race. "I don't look black," he said.
But Correia, who was fourth in the 100m freestyle trials in California, hopes she can help encourage more black swimmers.
"I don't think it's the main focus, but if I can use it to my advantage, I will," she said.
"It's really hard for minorities to get the facilities. It's a very expensive sport. My goal is to get more pools built."
Correia started swimming as a seven-year-old when a doctor suggested the sport could help with her scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.
Her path to Olympic qualification has been a long one, but she turned down the chance to swim for her native Puerto Rico, preferring the more difficult US trials.
She competed in three events at the 2000 trials, but did not come close to making the team.
Until her latest success, her greatest achievements had been in relays, where she felt less pressure helping her teammates, rather than swimming for herself.
"My career has been very slow. It was a bumpy road, but I stuck with it," she said.
The 22-year-old swimmer who will celebrate her 23rd birthday on December 23 was born in Puerto Rico when her parents migrated.
Sources have said that her father Vincent hails from the Pomeroon while her mother Anne is from South Ruimveldt.
Known to her friends as ‘Ritz’ she has in her three years as an NCAA swimmer transformed the anchor relay position into a trademark. Swimming World has dubbed her ‘Relay Woman’.
The swimmer in a June 2002 publication of Swimming World and Junior Swimmer held the fastest 50 and 100m freestyle relay split in history.
In that year she broke American Amy Van Dyken’s 50-yard freestyle with a blazing 21.69 at the University of Georgia, while erasing Jenny Thompson’s 100m when she registered 47.56. Natalie Coughlin later lowered the time in the meet in 47.47.
Her long time coach has been Peter Banks of the Brandon Bluewaves.
Correia who also swam at FINA’s 10th World Swimming Championships in Barcelona last year proved a great help for the Guyana team that participated.
The team included local swimmers Asanti Mickle and Ronald Ying with national coach Stephanie Fraser as the manager/coach/chaperone.
Fraser said that she was grateful for the advice by Correia, which bolstered the confidence of the swimmers despite their not securing any medals.
Fraser said that Correia has plans of visiting Guyana but has a hectic schedule.
She noted that the swimmer might be here in October when she receives a slight break for some sessions with the local athletes and coaches.