And the Simone show continues. This time, with a different Simone: Simone Manuel, the first female African-American swimmer to win an individual gold medal. There must be something magic going on when your name is Simone and you are competing in Rio.
Swimming, with Phelps destroying all-time records that date all the way to Leonidas, to Ledecky (coming up soon) the pool has offered some of the best American moments in these Rio games, and we hope the trend continues, with Phelps swimming in his last chance to keep adding gold to his stellar performance.
The Olympic Games are known, besides the idyllic place to break records, as the perfect place to also break cultural, societal walls. In the 1936 Berlin Games, Owens, with his 4 gold medals, silenced Hitler and his Nazi government, and propelled him to become one of the greates Olympians of all time. During those games, after a personal visit from Adidas founder, Adi Dassler, who convinced him to wear the Adidas shoes, Owens became the first sponsored African-American athlete in History.
In 2000, Anthony Ervin, Tony, from Valencia, California, became the first African-American swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal , with his victory in 50-meter freestyle.
Four years later in Athens, Maritza Correia, the Puerto Rican of African descent, won a silver medal. Maritza, who graduated from the University of Georgia in 2005, was cited by Simone Manuel as inspiration in her quest to becoming an Olympian.
Lia Neal, another inspiration for Simone Manuel, the Brooklyn native, won bronze in the London Games in 2012, in the4 x 100 meter freestyle relay, paving the way for Manuel to finally reach the highest achievement by any Olympian.
Four years after Neal’s achievement, Simone Manuel has broken another wall by becoming the fist African-American swimmer to win an individual gold medal in the Rio Games. Simone, a Stanford student, who redshirted this past year -out of competition- so she could do specific training toward the Rio Games, has seen how this tailored preparation has paid off. During her freshman year, Simone had won two individual NCAA titles, in 50 and 100-yard freestyle, so her decision to redshirt for a year came to some as a surprise, even though she commented her teammates were really supportive of her decision.
Simone, when asked to comment about her achievement, recognized that she hopes to become an inspiration for many other African-American swimmers and thus increased the diversity in a sport that has always lacked the presence of African-American swimmers. Just like the Williams sisters have propelled tennis popularity in the United States and abroad, Simone hopes to achieve the same feat.
In her comments after the race, in which she also mentioned Neal and Correia, she admits: “This medal is not just for me, it’s for some of the African-Americans who have been before me and been inspirations.”
Watch Simone Manuel make swimming history (https://youtu.be/PyApiBQAcKU)
From VIDGO TV, we want to congratulate Simone Manuel not only for her gold medal, an incredible achievement on its own, but also for her determination and inspiration for others to keep breaking walls that might seem insurmountable until you are the top. You are also an inspiration to all of us.
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