Black women are making historic strides in the realm of sports. According to CBS News, diver Kristen Hayden recently became the first African American woman to win a U.S. national senior title.
The New Jersey native competed alongside Quinn Henninger at the USA Diving winter national championships. The two came out victorious in the synchronized 3-meter, earning a collective score of 286.86 points beating Anne Fowler and Carson Tyler. Hayden—who has been swimming since the age of 10—says she was amazed she hit the milestone and hopes to use her journey within the sport to inspire Black youth to pursue diving.
“I don’t think words can even describe the feeling,” the 23-year-old said in a statement. “You read about people like that, you watch Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, but when it’s yourself, it’s insane. I think the whole diving community is headed in the right direction, and I just want to be a good example for young Black Americans or any minority really for diving in the U.S.”
Beyond the water, she’s driving impact through USA Diving’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, which she co-founded. Hayden’s triumph has led her to a bid for the upcoming FINA World Swimming Championships, making her the first Black diver from the U.S. to qualify.
The historic win illustrates the importance of representation within swimming. Research conducted by the USA Swimming Foundation revealed African Americans account for 1 percent of swimmers registered with USA Swimming. Several athletes are working to change the narrative by making swimming lessons more accessible.
Professional swimmer Simone Manuel teamed up with the Akron Area YMCA and the USA Swimming Foundation to talk to students at LeBron James‘ I Promise School about water safety and the importance of learning how to swim. “The most important thing is saving lives more than winning gold medals. Representation is important,” said Manuel.