Tribute to Enith Brigitha, first Black woman to receive Olympic swimming medal

RTL News reported on the unveiling—on October 15, 2022, in Lumière Park in Almere, The Netherlands—of the statue “Resurrected from the Water,” honoring Curaçao-born former swimming champion Enith Brigitha. Brigitha won two bronze medals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, becoming the first Black woman in the world to win an Olympic swimming medal. [Also see our previous posts, Enith Brigitha: International Swimming Hall of Fame and Biography of Enith Brigitha.] 

Here is a full translation of the RTL News article, with some editing for clarity and added note, by Peter Jordens. Thank you, Peter!

In 1976 Brigitha had to concede only to two East German swimmers, but in 1990 it became clear that both were part of the East German state’s doping program. Brigitha ought to have been a two-time gold medal winner.

The unveiling of her statue in Almere is part of Black Achievement Month. It is the first statue of a Black woman in The Netherlands. John Leerdam, Artistic Director of Black Achievement Month: “She certainly is not the only one who has achieved a lot, but Enith Brigitha is a household name within the Black and Antillean community. When the East German swimmers had to return their medals, the sports association could have given Brigitha the recognition she deserved but didn’t.”

That is a topic of much discussion within the Black community, says Leerdam, former MP for the Labor Party. He still thinks that the situation is ‘quite painful’. “But we are happy that this is finally happening. And Enith Brigitha can now see that the whole community supports her and that means a lot to her.”

Comedian Mo Hersi and [Curaçao-born] sculptor Patrick Mezas started a fundraiser to cover the cost of the statue. Leerdam: “Small amounts kept coming in that eventually added up to the required 50,000 Euros. I also see this as a protest by the entire Dutch community against injustice.”

The statue, titled ‘Resurrected from the Water’, was unveiled at 13:56:65 o’clock, a reference to Brigitha’s Olympic time of 56:65 in the 100m freestyle.

Enith Brigitha, who was present at the unveiling, was born in 1955 in Willemstad, Curaçao. Her family moved to Amsterdam when she was fifteen. She was named Sportswoman of the Year in 1973 and 1974 and was knighted in the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1979. In 2017 she was awarded the Black Achievement Award in the sports category.

Note: The reason that the town of Almere was chosen for the statue is that Brigitha lived there for a large part of her life. She now lives in nearby Zeewolde. The Province of Flevoland has co-sponsored the statue and the Municipality of Almere will be in charge of its maintenance.

Translated by Peter Jordens.For the original article (in Dutch), see

Also see (in Dutch):, which includes a recent interview and a documentary.

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