Simone Manuel Discusses the Importance of Her Historic Performance at the Rio Olympics

Simone Manuel discusses the importance of her becoming the first female African-American swimmer to win an individual Olympic event.

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Complex Original

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American swimmer Simone Manuel made history on Thursday night when she tied for gold in the 100-meter freestyle final with Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak to become the first female African-American swimmer to ever win an individual Olympic event. Manuel and Oleksiak broke an Olympic record by finishing the race in 52.70 seconds, and after shedding tears once she emerged from the pool, Manuel spoke with NBC about the significance of her winning a medal.

Guess who's bringing home #GOLD!

CONGRATS to @simone_manuel!

— Team USA (@TeamUSA) August 12, 2016

"I’m just so blessed to have a gold medal," the 20-year-old swimmer said. "This medal is not just for me. It’s for a whole bunch of people who came before me and have been an inspiration to me…It’s for all the people after me who believe they can’t do it, and I just want to be an inspiration to others that can do it."

Later, Manuel expounded on the importance of her gold-medal performance and attempted to put it into the proper perspective as she briefly touched on social issues like police brutality.

"It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality," she said. "This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on in the world. I went out there and swam as fast as I could, and my color just comes with the territory."

It is an honor to represent the USA! God is working in me! I am so blessed and grateful. Thank you all so much for your support.

— Simone Manuel (@swimone) August 12, 2016

Manuel also discussed her reluctance to be identified as "Simone the black swimmer."

"It is something I’ve definitely struggled with a lot," she said. "Coming into the race, I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders. It’s something I carry with me. I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not 'Simone the black swimmer.' The title of black swimmer suggests that I am not supposed to win golds or break records, but that’s not true because I train hard and want to win just like everyone else."

Here’s how some of Manuel’s Team USA teammates reacted to her historic feat:

Sisters, teammates, & Olympic medalists 🏅 @LiaNeal & @simone_manuel share a hug after a historic race! #SwimUnited

— USA Swimming (@USASwimming) August 12, 2016

History has been made.

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