Howard Lacrosse Player Latroya Pina Swimming in the Olympics for Cape Verde


Interviews for this story were conducted by Howard Athletics and have been used in this story with Howard’s permission.

Lacrosse may not be in the Olympics quite yet, but the sport’s ties extend to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games.

Latroya Pina, a former Howard women’s lacrosse player, is in Tokyo preparing to compete as a freestyle swimmer for the Cape Verde Olympic Team. The 25-year-old is a dual citizen of the United States and Cape Verde, an island nation in the central Atlantic Ocean, and will be competing on the country’s very first Olympic swim team.

“It’s an opportunity that most people dream about,” Pina told Howard Athletics. “It’s changed my life because I never expected that I would get this opportunity. After qualifying, I proved to the people of my country that there are no limits and you can achieve anything. Having this once in a lifetime opportunity is something I will truly cherish forever, and I’m extremely grateful to be a Black face in a predominantly white sport.”

Pina grew up in Seekonk, Mass. and starred at Seekonk High School in swimming and track before committing to swim at Howard University. She joined the women’s lacrosse program on a whim in 2017 when the team needed extra players and spent the better part of five seasons with the Bison.

After starting 11 times in her first two seasons, Pina started nine games during Howard’s 2019 season, recording a goal and five ground balls. Pina appeared in four of the Bison’s five games as a graduate student this past season.

“Immediately, I appreciated what [lacrosse] had to offer, and I instantly connected with everyone on the team, creating an everlasting bond,” Pina said. “No doubt, my teammates kept me motivated. Although I was new to the sport, I wanted to master it.”

All the while, she was building a successful career as a swimmer at Howard and beyond. She competed with the Bison in 2018 and 2019 before joining Team Cape Verde in the 2019 World Aquatics Championships (50-free and 100-free). Balancing international swim training with lacrosse required plenty of early mornings for Pina during her college career.

“I get up at 3:30 a.m. to drive 25 minutes away to jump in the pool at 4 a.m. and swim until 6 a.m.,” she said. “Then, I drive back to campus and run on the Greene Stadium turf and join lacrosse practice until 8 a.m.”

A chance Facebook message planted the seed that she could play in the Olympics for Cape Verde, where her mother was born.

Now pursuing a master’s degree in biology, Pina has her eyes on winning the first Olympic medal for Cape Verde. She’ll be competing alongside her siblings, Troy and Jayla, in one of the most heartwarming stories of the Olympics Games.

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