No matter where Simone Manuel travels for swim meets, she knows that she is different. When Manuel is on the starting blocks and looks to the left and looks to the right, there is nobody who resembles her. Manuel is an elite African-American swimmer, which is rare in the sport.
“I would like there to be a day where there are more of us, and it’s not Simone, the black swimmer,” Manuel said in an interview with TeamUSA.org. “The title black swimmer makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal, or I’m not supposed to break records.”
The Sugar Land, Texas, native has done plenty of that in her illustrious career. Manuel set an Olympic record in the 100-meter freestyle on her way to winning a gold medal in the 2016 Summer games in Rio. It was a historic moment for Manuel, who became the first African-American swimmer to win a gold medal in an individual event.
“This medal is not just for me,” Manuel said in 2016. “It’s for some of the African-Americans that came before me and have been inspirations and mentors to me. I hope that I can be an inspiration for others.”
Manuel, who has won nine gold medals in World Championship competition in her career, was well on her way to securing another berth on the U.S. Olympic team before the global pandemic forced the postponement of the Tokyo Summer Games until 2021. She used the time to give back to the community which is something she truly enjoys.
“I’ve been working with Hunger Not Impossible, and I actually donated several means for people that need it during this time,” Samuel said in an interview with ESPN.
Manuel finally competed at the Tokyo Games and secured the bronze in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.