Simone Manuel in shock after setting a new Olympic record in Rio 2016 and becoming the firs black female swimmer to win gold.

“I know I Am A Winner”—Simone Manuel Ahead of Paris Olympics

After becoming the first-ever black woman to win an Olympic gold in swimming and overcoming overtraining syndrome, Simone Manuel reaffirms herself as a winner ahead of the Paris Olympics

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by Ìbùkúnolúwa Dàda
Ten days ago, the people in the stands at the 2024 US Olympic trials went agog when Simone Manuel said, “I know I am a winner.” Simone was not making an empty statement and the people knew it. Manuel had just finished edging out Gretchen Williams by 0.02 seconds to win the Olympic women’s 50-meter freestyle on June 23. 

At the Rio Olympics in 2016: 20-year-old Simone Manuel became the first black woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming. She shared the win with a record-breaking time of 52.70 with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in the 100m freestyle, beating world record-holding Australian Cate Campbell. With this feat, she set an Olympic and American record. 

In the same competition, she won silver in the 50-meter freestyle; and as a part of the American Women’s team, she won silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and gold in the 4×100-meter medley. 

Now 27, having already earned a spot on the relay team with a fourth-place finish on June 19, seems pumped to bring the Rio wonder back after winning the 100m trial to earn a position to contest individually at the Paris Olympics. 

After trailblazing in 2016, Her preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (held in 2021) were hampered by overtraining syndrome, a condition that significantly impacted her performance. Despite this setback, Manuel’s resilience shone through as she still managed to secure a bronze medal in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Following the Tokyo Games, Manuel took an extended break from training, which she humorously described as “probably the most boring months of my life.” This period of rest proved crucial for her recovery and renewed focus. Now, with the Olympic 100m freestyle trial win on June 23, Manuel’s statement on being a winner tells a comeback story after she demonstrated her enduring competitive spirit and ability to overcome adversity.

Beyond her Olympic achievements, Manuel boasts an impressive record at World Championships. With 16 medals (11 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze) across various events from 2013 to 2019, she has consistently proven herself as one of the world’s top swimmers.

Outside the pool, Manuel is a well-rounded individual. A graduate of Stanford University, she enjoys baking and cooking as a way to relax. Her other interests include traveling and collecting sunglasses and pictures. Music plays a significant role in her life, with upbeat tunes accompanying her workouts and gospel music as a motivation source.

Manuel’s journey is not just about personal achievement; it’s about representation and breaking barriers in a sport that has historically lacked diversity at its highest levels. Her success has inspired countless young swimmers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds, to pursue their dreams in the pool.

As Simone Manuel continues to compete at the highest level, her story remains one of perseverance, excellence, and groundbreaking achievement. From her historic gold in Rio to her comeback for Paris, Manuel continues to make waves both in and out of the pool. 

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