Simone Manuel keeps swimming for much more than gold medals

Simone Manuel competes in the 100-meter freestyle during the Arena Pro SwimSeries swim meet Friday, June 2, 2017, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

SANTA CLARA — As Simone Manuel stepped to the starting blocks the other night it rekindled fond memories of the Rio Games when the Stanford swimmer had a look of astonishment after tying for first in what became a social-changing moment in sports history.

Manuel, then a sophomore, was the first African-American women swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal when she tied Canadian Penny Oleksiak in the 100-meter freestyle.

“Rio is really when I thought swimming is bigger than myself,” Manuel said Sunday night at the end of the TYR Pro Series at Santa Clara. “I realized the impact I could have on people.”

She had defeated Oleksiak in the 100 Saturday night then easily won the 50 freestyle Sunday in a two-swimmer showdown against Cal’s Abbey Weitzeil. The four-time Olympic medalist won in a time of 24.67 seconds at the George F. Haines International Center.

Manuel, 21, has remained a potent symbol in a sport that wants to shed its country-club image.
Although she plans to take classes next year, Manuel is about to sign a professional contract after participating in graduation ceremonies this weekend.

That decision is wrapped up in finding sponsors who want to promote her message of inspiring minorities to learn to swim.

Manuel, who won five gold medals at the 2017 World Championships and helped Stanford defend its NCAA title this spring, doesn’t care if kids matriculate to the Olympics.

“The most important thing is saving lives more than winning gold medals,” she said.
Manuel has conducted swimming clinics around the country to encourage minorities to learn to swim.

The hope is more minorities follow Manuel as the formidable freestylist continues to plow through the water leaving challengers in her considerable wake.

But the inroads by minority swimmers has not happened quickly. Manuel has talked about feeling different growing up in the Houston area when …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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