Simone Manuel Becomes the First Black Woman to Win an Olympic Swimming Gold Medal

Pedro Oliveira Jr. and Hannah Parry, Daily Mail, August 12, 2016

USA’s Simone Manuel has made history as the first black woman in the United States to take home a medal in an individual Olympic swimming event.

And it’s a gold in the women’s 100m freestyle–an event the US has not won since 1984.

It was an emotional moment for Manuel, 20, who broke down in tears after winning the event–as well as setting a new Olympic record.

‘This medal is not just for me, it’s for a whole bunch of people who have come before me and have been an inspiration to me,’ Manuel said.

‘And it’s for all the people after me who believe you can’t do it,’ she added, getting emotional as she basked in the glory of victory. I just want to be an inspiration to others that you can do it.’

Simone Manuel

Simone Manuel

She said that while she was proud to become the first American black woman to medal in an individual swimming event, she hoped to get to a stage when race was no longer even an issue in the sport.

‘I’m super glad that I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport,’ she said ‘But at the same time, I would like there to be a day where there are more of us and it’s not like ‘Simone, the black swimmer,’ because the title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal.’

Manuel tied for first place with Canadian teenager Penny Oleksiak in an Olympic record time of 52.70 seconds.

The gold medalists, who were both making their Olympic debuts in Rio, beat heavy favorites, sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell to victory.

Manuel, who has also won silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay, broke into tears after the interview.

Manuel came from behind in the race, taking third place at the 50m turn.

She pressed on hard and passed into second place, dueling it out with Oleksiak. They touched the finishing line together, down to one hundredth of a second.

Manuel–who has been dubbed by friends and family ‘Swimone’ for her talent–showed promise as a swimmer from an early age.

In her freshman year at Stanford University she broke the American and NCAA Records in the 100-yard freestyle–her signature event.

During the 2013 World Championships, Manuel, from Sugar Land, Texas, made another historical swim.

She became the first American swimmer ever to break the 25 second barrier in the 50 meter freestyle as a junior swimmer.

Manuel was on both the 2013 World Championship Team and the 2013 Duel in the Pool team that won against the European All Stars.

The following year, in the Pan Pacific Championships, she earned two silver medals–in the 400 freestyle relay and the 400 medley relay.

She also earned a bronze medal in her signature event, the 100 freestyle, and came fourth in the 50 freestyle.

During Manuel’s Olympic Trials, she impressed by placing second in the 100m freestyle earning her place on Team USA for the event and in the 4x100m Freestyle Relay.

The first black woman to earn a place on the US swim team was Maritza Correia who is also famous for being the first African American female swimmer to break an American record in 2002.

She went onto help Team USA secure a silver medal on the 400-meter freestyle relay at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.

More than a decade later, and Manuel became the first black female swimmer in the US to win an individual medal.

Topics:

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.