Rio Olympics: Simone Manuel's Historic Swim - Rolling Stone
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Rio Olympics: Simone Manuel’s Historic Win

First African-American woman to medal in an individual event in swimming, wins gold in stunning dead-heat

Simone Manuel, Rio swimmer, Gold medal,

Simone Manuel's gold medal made her the first African-American woman to medal in an individual swimming event

Credit: Christian Petersen / Getty

If you keep wondering what other history could be made in these Olympics by the United States swimmers, from Michael Phelps adding more gold medals to his trophy room that could conceivably be the size of a small house, to Katie Ledecky completely dominating every time she jumps into a pool, Simone Manuel had an answer for you. And she did it in epic fashion.

By tying and winning in a dead heat with Canadian teenager Penny Oleksiak in an Olympic record time of 52.70 seconds in the 100m freestyle, Manuel became the first African American woman to win a medal in an individual swimming event. The win was something of an upset considering it came against the event’s heavy favorites, Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell. 

In a week filled with American swimmers presumptive domination of nearly every event they’ve been in, Manuel’s victory will go down as the most exciting of them all for a number of reasons, from what it means in American history to the very fashion she did it in. A victory that, if not for the internet, may not have received the attention it rightfully deserved. But in the end it did, and now Manuel can go home from Rio with a gold medal in her bag and her name forever in the history books.

In This Article: Olympics


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