Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel made history on Thursday after becoming the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming.
Manuel picked up the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle after tying with 16-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak. “The gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport,” Manuel said after the victory.
The 20-year-old added, “For people who believe that they can’t do it, I hope I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming. You might be pretty good at it.”
But for Manuel, it was important to enter the race without the focus of her being a great “black swimmer” as opposed to just a stellar athlete. “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.’”
Simone also opened up about taking home the gold amid the recent race issues in the nation.“ 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.”
Late Thursday night, Manuel tweeted:
It’s worth noting that the USA has two Simones to brag about — Simone Biles is the African-American gymnast who helped lead the USA team to the women’s team all-around gold medal.
Several celebrities tweeted about both Simones’ victories, including Serena Williams, Lil Wayne and Melanie Fiona.