Simone Manuel, already the first African-American woman to win an Olympic individual swimming event, continued to added to her medal haul with a silver in the 50-meter freestyle then anchoring the women’s winning 400 medley relay team.
Manuel leaves the Rio Games with four medals – two gold and two silver – in a performance that should bury old, racist stereotypes about black swimmers.
“The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I am not supposed to be able to win a gold medal, I am not supposed to be able to break the Olympic record,” Manuel said after winning her first gold in the women’s 100 freestyle. “And that is not true as I work as hard as anybody else and I love the sport and I want to win, just like everybody else.”
Manuel’s history-making gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle on Thursday earned her praise well beyond the U.S. swimming community. LeBron James and Serena Williams both tweeted congratulations to Manuel after she tied Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in an Olympic-record 52.70. Manuel also won a silver medal earlier in the week in the 400 freestyle relay.
“I’m kind of a person who tries to stay the same, tries not to think about what other people are saying about me,” Manuel said. “I’m glad I can be an inspiration to others but I haven’t really thought about how my life has changed yet.”
Manuel admitted she was surprised to have won gold in the 100-meter freestyle, and her medal in the 50 freestyle was also a bit unexpected. She had qualified sixth from the semifinals on Friday after her bus arrived to the swimming venue late. She finished in 24.09, just off the gold medal-winning time of 24.07 by Denmark’s Pernille Blume and a significant improvement from her previous personal best of 24.33. Belarus’ Aliaksandra Herasimenia took the bronze in 24.11.
About an hour after her sprint for silver, Manuel made more history, anchoring the women’s 400 medley relay team that claimed the United States’ 1,000th Summer Games gold.
Manuel roomed with Katie Ledecky – who also is set to become her teammate at Stanford – during these Rio Games, and the two have combined to win nine medals (six golds, two silvers) with the 400 medley relay still to come later Saturday for Manuel. After Manuel won her gold on Thursday, it was Ledecky who welcomed her home.
“It was about 2:30 a.m. I opened the door and she got up and gave me a hug and said, ‘I wasn’t going to fall asleep until I gave you a hug,’ and that really meant a lot to me,” Manuel said. “She didn’t have to say much after that because her staying up said enough in itself.”
SOURCE: Yahoo! Sports, Johnny Ludden