Moments after touching the wall that concluded the women’s 100-meter freestyle swim, Simone Manuel looked up and broke into tears as she realized that she captured the gold. Not only did she make a new Olympic record at 52:70 seconds, she also became the first U.S. African-American female to win a medal in an individual event in swimming. 20-year old Manuel tied with 16-year old Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak to share Olympic Gold.
While Australian Cate Campbell was the favorite going into the event, it was Manuel and Oleksiak who powered through to the end to claim victory. Manuel also won silver with her teammates in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay before her individual event.
After exiting the pool, Manuel gave an interview in which she spoke out about police brutality and race in America. “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.” – USA Today reports.
Leading up to the event, Manuel attempted to separate herself from representing the U.S. as a black swimmer in the Olympics. She wanted to solely focus on winning gold, and remove the weight of black community off her shoulders. Before her victory, Cullen Jones, who won two gold and two silver medals in the previous two Olympics, was the face of minorities for American swimmers.
Manuel concluded her interview with this powerful statement, “I’m super glad that I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport. 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.”
She has the drive and ability, as she displayed in her race, and definitely created some wake at this Olympics. We hope to see her in many Olympics to come.