Swimmer wins 2 gold, 2 silver medals in Rio
By Joe Southern
Simone Manuel is Sugar Land’s golden girl, winning two gold medals and two silvers at the Rio Olympics last week.
Manuel tied for the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night when she surged home in the final half of the second lap to finish in a time of 52:70. That tied her with 16-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak, the pair sharing a new Olympic record and both receiving a gold medal.
That accomplishment made Manuel, 20, the first African-American female swimmer to take gold in an individual event.
She won her second gold medal when she anchored the U.S. women’s 4×100 medley relay to victory with a time of 3:53.13.
In the 50-meter freestyle, Manuel took the silver medal, finishing just .02 seconds behind Denmark’s Pernille Blume with a time of 24.08.
Her other silver came in the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay. The team had a time of 3:31.89, narrowly falling to the Australian team that set a world record at 3:30.65.
“When God got you, you can’t lose. It wasn’t the easiest journey, but I couldn’t be happier with my first Olympics!” she said via Twitter.
In published reports Manuel talked about the significance of her historic performance.
“This medal is not just for me, it’s for the African-Americans who have come before me and been an inspiration,” Manuel told USA Today. “I hope I can be an inspiration to others so this medal is for those who come behind me and get into the sport and hopefully find the love and drive to get to this point.”
While she appreciates her accomplishments as a black woman, she said she hopes for the day that race doesn’t matter.
“Coming into the race, I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders as it is something I carry with me being in this position,” Manuel said. “But I do hope it kind of goes away. I am super glad with the fact I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time I would like there to be a day when there are more of us and it’s not ‘Simone, the black swimmer.’
“The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I am not supposed to be able to win a gold medal, I am not supposed to be able to break the Olympic record, and that is not true — as I work as hard as anybody else and I love the sport and I want to win, just like everybody else.”
Sugar Land has one more Olympic athlete waiting to compete in Rio. Steven Lopez, a 37-year-old Kempner High School graduate, will compete in taekwondo on Friday, Aug. 19. Lopez won gold in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and took bronze in 2008.