Simone Manuel claimed gold in the 100m individual freestyle event at the 2016 Summer Olympics on Thursday night, but she wasn't alone. Canada's Penny Oleksiak touched the wall at the exact same moment to create a double-gold situation in one of the Games' most electrifying finishes. The winning times were an Olympic record -- 52.70s.
With the win, Manuel became the first black woman in Olympic history to earn an individual swimming gold medal and the first African-American woman to win an individual medal. Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands won a pair of bronze medals in 1976. The history wasn't lost on her.
"It means a lot [to be the first black woman to earn gold in the pool]," Manuel said after the race. "I mean, this medal is not just for me. It's for a whole bunch of people that came before me and have been an inspiration to me. Maritza [Correia], Cullen [Jones], and it's for all the people after me, who believe they can't do it. And I just want to be inspiration to others that you can do it."
Maritza Correia was the first African-American woman to be a member of the U.S. swim team. Cullen Jones was the first African-American to break a world record in the pool.
The field trailed Australian Cate Campbell at the turn, but Manuel and Oleksiak powered up as Campbell faded in the final 25 meters. Manuel outkicked everyone but her 16-year-old co-medalist, then turned to the results board in astonishment. It was a historic moment -- and a significant upset for the 20-year-old Houston native. Her only other international medal in an individual event was a bronze, and that came at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.
Campbell and Oleksiak came into the finals as favorites after posting the two fastest times of the semis on Tuesday. Simone Manuel, the American world record holder in the event, and Swedish standout Sarah Sjostrom weren't far behind to fill out the top half of a talented field of sprinters. Sjostrom and Campbell had earned silver and bronze, respectively, at the 2015 World Championships.
Sjostrom also had the confidence of a silver medal performance in the 200m discipline at this year's Games behind her as well. The only woman that bested her, American Katie Ledecky, did not participate in the 100m event. She finished in third place.
|Womens 100m Freestyle|