Simone Manuel Wins Gold! Becomes First Black Woman To Win Individual Event In Swimming
Simone Manuel managed to rewrite history, break a world record, and bring a little magic to the Olympics all in less than a minute.
Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming on Thursday night. She and Penny Oleksiak of Canada tied for the fastest time, an Olympic record in the women’s 100-meter freestyle: 52.70 seconds.
Manuel, originally from Sugar Land, Texas, swam at her local club, First Colony Swim Team early on when she realized this was something she was good at. Manuel is the youngest of three and began swimming at age 5 by watching her two older brothers. She joined the First Colony Swim Team at age 11, where she swam under head coach Alison Beebe throughout her early career.
At the 2012 United States Olympic Trials, Manuel placed 20th in the 50-meter freestyle (25.63) 17th in 100-meter freestyle. But in 2016 it was a totally different story.
When Manuel looked up after touching the wall, she saw red lit dots on her block that indicated she had at least finished among the podium places, and admitted she was “super surprised” when she turned around and saw the “1” next to her name on the scoreboard.
Manuel said that her victory was extra special in the context of ongoing race issues in the U.S.
“It is something I’ve definitely struggled with a lot,” Manuel said. “Coming into the race I tried to take weight of the black community off my shoulders. It’s something I carry with me. I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not ‘Simone the black swimmer.’
The last time an American won gold in the event was 1984, when Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer also tied and shared the gold medal with a time of 55.92 seconds.
Several black swimmers have won Olympic medals for the United States. The first woman of African-American descent…