There’s More Than One Simone Making History At The Olympics This Year

In what marked a terrific moment in history, 20-year-old Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel became the first black American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event in swimming Thursday night. Finishing the women’s 100-meter freestyle at lightning speed, Manuel tied with the Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak at a mere 52.70 seconds, which meant both of the swimmers successfully shaved 0.01 seconds off of the previous Olympic standard of 52.71 set earlier in the Rio games by Australian swimmer Cate Campbell.

The last time an American woman won a gold medal in an individual swimming event was over 30 years ago, back in 1984 when both Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer tied in the same event at 55.92 seconds and shared gold, which sounds like a stroll in the water in comparison to the newly minted record.

Despite the fact that Manuel made a huge historic win, NBC neglected to air her medal ceremony until nearly an hour after the race itself. Best case scenario, this shows tremendous oversight on their part, and worst case scenario it shows the lack of attention paid to Manuel’s feat given the fact that Michael Phelps still got more airtime than her. When the public was finally able to behold the moment on video (which is now only available in fragments on YouTube), it proved itself to be as emotional and touching as you would expect.

Despite the momentary shade thrown by NBC, Manuel herself remained incredibly positive and gave an incisive and genuine post-race interview where she brought up the current state of U.S. politics and police brutality and voiced that she hopes her swimming success can shed a light in a tense time.

Speaking with NBC’s sideline reporter, Manuel shared her thoughts about the win, saying:

“I mean, this medal’s not just for me, it’s for a whole bunch of people who have came before me and have been an inspiration to me, and for all the people after me who believe they can’t do it. And I just want to be an inspiration to others that you can do it.

It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory. I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not ‘Simone the black swimmer.’”

I think it’s safe to say she has the whole “being an inspiration” beat down to an art (or a sport). And when she mentions those who have come before, I have no doubt that the two female black U.S. Olympians who swam before her and received medals — Maritza Correia, who won a silver at the 400-meter freestyle in 2004, and Lia Neal, who won bronze in a relay at the 2012 games — are proud as hell of the historic win she made.