Simone Manuel Makes History as 1st African-American Female Swimmer to Win Olympic Gold in Individual Event

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U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel ties for gold in women’s individual 100M freestyle race at 2016 Rio Olympic Games (photo via dailymail.co.uk)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

First and foremost, the headline above is the main story.  Team U.S.A. member Simone Manuel made Olympic and U.S. history by becoming the first African-American female to win gold in an individual swimming event when she tied Canadian swimmer Penny Olesiak for first place in the 100-meter freestyle at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics Thursday night, with a time of 52.70.  We congratulate her heartily, and are as proud as we can be of and for her.

According to theroot.com, Manuel used her time and her platform afterwards to speak on the ongoing racial issues the United States grapples with as she addressed the importance of her historic win.

United States' Simone Manuel shows off her gold medal during the medal ceremony for the women's 100-meter freestyle final during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

United States’ Simone Manuel shows off her gold medal during the medal ceremony for the women’s 100-meter freestyle final during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

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

Manuel acknowledged that her race does carry a bit of weight, especially as a swimmer, given the stereotype that black people cannot or should not be able to swim well.

“It is something I’ve definitely struggled with a lot,” she said. “Coming into the race, I tried to take [the] 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,” Manuel added.

The ensuing story surrounding this momentous event and its coverage has also been historic in its own right. Thanks to social media, the calling out of the faulty, biased reporting by the mainstream media on this unprecedented triumph has been equally thrilling to behold.  Not only was NBC’s lack of coverage been taken to task by colorlines.com and scores of twitter fans, so has the San Jose Mercury News‘ initial insulting headline of “Michael Phelps Shares Historic Night with African-American” been dragged via a great Huffington Post article.

Personally, I am very satisfied to see a growing trend on speaking out against systemic racism in mainstream reporting and for apologies having to be publicly made and headlines re-written.  Please click through the links above and enjoy the tweets and comments in their entirety.

In the meantime, I’m setting my DVR for Manuel’s next race tonight in the 50-meter freestyle to see if NBC, etc. can do better by this undeniable champion for the ages.

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