By Angel Johnson
Simone Biles isn’t the only African American from Texas making history in the Olympics. In fact, there is a new Simone in town. Simone Manuel won a gold medal for the 100-meter freestyle in swimming last Thursday. She is the first African American female to take first place in an individual swimming event. The last black woman to win a medal for swimming was in 1976, and the last American woman to win the 100-meter freestyle was in 1984.
On Thursday Manuel had a slow start, but halfway through, she started passing her competitors. By the end of the race she tied with Canadian swimmer, Penny Oleksiak. They both set a new record and clocked at 52.70 seconds.
After her victory, NBC asked Manuel what was going through her mind. All Manuel could say was, “glory to God.” Manuel is a devout Christian and she uses her social media as a platform to express her faith. She also won silver in the 50-meter freestyle on Saturday.
Originally Manuel entered the Olympics in order to become a better swimmer. But when she arrived in Rio and experience the ambiance, she was determined to win a medal. But she didn’t expect to win gold.
Manuel told Rolling Stone the win means a lot to her, especially with everything going on in society from police brutality to racial tension. Manuel’s win does show how far this country has come. During the Jim Crow laws, pools were drained if a black person even put their toe in a white-only pool. Sometimes public pools were closed in order to avoid integration.
Manuel’s win also breaks the stereotype that black people can’t swim. She speaks passionately about the need for diversity in swimming. She is a student at Stanford and says she wants to see more people of color compete in swimming.
Manuel also wants to inspire the next generation because she didn’t have people to look up to when she was young. Her goal seems to be working; in fact, one parent posted a picture on social media stating her little swimmer will be the next Simone Manuel.