Simone Manuel with her Rio medal.

Simone Manuel with her Rio gold medal.

While another Simone (Biles) was making history on the gymnastics floor, Simone Manuel was making history in the swimming pool. Simone had a sixteen year journey to get to Rio having started swimming aged just 4 years old. She swam at her local swimming club in Sugar Land, Texas as well as in high school and in 2004 she enrolled in Stanford University. At Stanford she has become a two-time NCAA Champion in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle event where she has a set a number of time records.

Simone won two silver medals in Rio, one in the 50m freestyle event and one as part of the 4 x 100m freestyle relay event (Katie Ledecky was also a part of this team). She also won two gold medals – making important history in the process. As well as winning gold in the 4 x 100m medley Simone became the first African-American woman to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics by coming joint first in the 100m freestyle event with Canadian Oleksiak (she’s only 16 by the way!). In doing this they both set an Olympic record of 52.70 seconds.

After the race she had the following to say: “The gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport. 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.” With the current problems in the United States (and the rest of the world) this is a pretty positive message to take from Rio.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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