Enith Brigitha (b. 1955) is the first Black woman to medal in Olympic swimming, winning bronze in the 100 and 200 freestyle in 1976.

The East German athletes who won gold and silver ahead of her were later revealed and admitted to being involved in “systematic doping.”

Brigitha considers herself a gold medalist. She has also won silver and bronze medals at the World and European championships in the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle, 200 freestyle events. View more of her career highlights.

She was born in Curaçao – formerly a Dutch colony – to a Curaçaoan father and Dutch mother who met in the Netherlands and relocated to the island.

Brigitha is the oldest of five children, and her mom taught her to swim in the Caribbean sea. When she was nine she joined a swimming club.

“When I was a baby, I go to the beach from 2-3 months,” she said on the Social Kick podcast. “My mom took me in her arms and put me in the salt water. She put the water on me. I think that was the beginning. I loved the sea, the swimming, the water.”

Brigitha and her mother moved to the Netherlands when the future Olympian was a teenager.

She was named Dutch Sportswoman of the Year in 1973 and 1974. Omroep Flevoland says according the NOC*NSF, Brigitha was the top Dutch swimmer for most of the 1970s.

After retiring, she lived in Curaçao for years giving swimming lessons through her own school. She has since returned to the Netherlands and is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

In 2022, Enith was honored with a statue.

Learn more about Enith Brigitha:

English Interview with The Social Kick

Dutch interview with Omroep Flevoland

Induction into the International Swimming HOF

Official Olympic athlete page

Enith Brigitha profile in Swimming World Magazine

2022 interview following statue unveiling

Learn more about connection between Netherlands and Curaçao:

The history of Curaçao

The African Diaspora in the Netherlands

The Black side of Amsterdam


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