Simone Manuel a 20-year-old from Sugar Land Texas,became the first African-American woman to win an individual swimming medal in the Olympics, and she did it in a new Olympic Record and in a tie with Canadian, Penny Oleksiak, with the time of 52.70. She also took home a silver medal in the 50M Free, only less than a second behind gold medal winner, Pernille Blume from Denmark.
After the emotional win, Simone Manuel reflected:
“This medal is not just for me, it’s for a whole bunch of people who came before me and have been an inspiration to me, Maritza (McClendon), Cullen (Jones), and it’s for all the people after me who believe they can’t do it and I just want to be an inspiration to others that you can do it,” she told NBCSports.”
Simone later addressed the race issue, according to USA Today, Manuel said that her victory was extra special in the context of ongoing race issues in the U.S.
“It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality,” Manuel said. “This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.”
For Manuel, the victory could not have been sweeter. In the lead-up to the event she forced herself to briefly distance herself from the significance of being a rare black swimmer representing the U.S, in order to focus on chasing victory.
“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.’