When American swimmer Simone Manuel touched the wall of the pool last Thursday night she made Olympic history. Manuel became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event. Along with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, Manuel set a new Olympic record. Then, fighting back tears, she expressed praise to her Lord and Savior.
Immediately after she finished the 100-meter freestyle race in 52.70 seconds, Simone was interviewed. And she didn’t waste her opportunity. “All I can say is all glory to God, it’s definitely been a long journey these last four years. I’m just so blessed to have a gold medal.”
She then explained to reporters that she hopes her example will help break down stereotypes and eliminate the focus on her race.
“That’s something I definitely struggled with a lot – just coming into this race I kind of tried to take the weight off my shoulders, which is something I carry with me just being in this position. I do hope that kind of goes away.”
Manuel hopes that other African-American swimmers will join her, and that race will cease to be the attribute that dominates the conversation about her swimming career.
“I’m super glad I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time, I’d like there to be a day when there will be more of us and it’s not ‘Simone – the black swimmer.’ The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal or break records.”
Manual hails from Sugar Land, Texas and currently swims for Stanford. She has been a dominant force in women’s swimming for years, becoming a two-time NCAA swimming champion. She is also friends with gymnast Simone Biles, who is also from Texas and similarly shares a strong Christian faith.
Manuel is not afraid to use her social media to share her Christian convictions, referencing “Phil 4:13” in her Twitter and Instagram bios and writing her followers, “All glory to God! Isn’t He awesome! I am extremely blessed!”
Simone Manuel looks forward to returning to Stanford in the fall, where she will be joined by another gold medal-winning swimmer inspired by Christ, Katie Ledecky.