After becoming the first-ever African-American female swimmer to win a gold medal in an individual event at the Olympics, Simone Manuel spoke out about police brutality in the United States.
On Aug. 11 in Rio, Manuel finished the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 52:70. Her time tied with 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak from Canada. The two now share an Olympic record and both received a gold medal.
In an interview following her first-place win, Manuel discussed the historical element of her win, particularly in the context of the ongoing race issues in America.
"It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality," Manuel said. "This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory."
The gold medalist said the win is extra special as she recognizes the significance of being a rare black swimmer representing the United States. She says she tried not to think about it during training in order to focus on winning the race.
"It is something I’ve definitely struggled with a lot," Manuel said. "Coming into the race I tried to take 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," she added.
Manuel said that she was "super surprised" when she looked at the scoreboard after finishing her race and saw the number '1' next to her name.
She dedicated the win to the African-Americans who paved the way before her.
“This medal is not just for me. It is for some of the African-Americans who have come before me,” she said. "This medal is for the people who come behind me and get into the sport and hopefully find love and drive to get to this point."