Swimmer Simone Manuel Speaks Out on Police Brutality After Making Olympic History

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Simone Manuel became an instant legend Thursday night at the Rio Olympics, making history as the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event and setting an Olympic record by finishing the 100-meter freestyle in 52.70 seconds in a dramatic tie with Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak.


She took the opportunity to speak out about police brutality and race relations in the United States.

“It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality,” Manuel said Thursday. “This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.”

Standing next to 16-year-old Oleksiak during the award ceremony, Manuel, who turned 20 earlier this month, tearfully accepted her gold medal. The decorated Olympian said the color of her skin is something she’s “struggled with a lot.”

“Coming into the race I tried to take weight of the black community off my shoulders,” Manuel said. “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, who was born in Houston, said the gold medal also represents the African Americans who helped blaze a trail for her to participate in the Olympics.

“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.”

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