Simone Manuel Makes History as First African-American Woman to Win Gold in Individual Swimming Event

Manuel also set a new Olympic record with a time of 52.70 seconds

Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty

Not only was it a rarity for both the American and Canadian national anthems to be played, but Simone Manuel also became the first African-American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming.

At Thursday’s 100-meter freestyle event, Manuel tied for first with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak as both women finished in 52.70 seconds, setting a new Olympic record. Impressively, Rio is the first Olympic games for both Manuel and Oleksiak.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won bronze in 52.99.

After touching the wall, Manuel was shocked to find out that she had finished first, and immediately broke down in tears. “It’s definitely been a long journey these past four years. I’m just so blessed to have a gold medal,” the Texas-native told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya after her race.

Adding, “This medal is not just for me, it’s for a bunch of people who have come before me and have been an inspiration to me. And it’s for all the people after me, who believe they can’t do it. I just want to be an inspiration to others that you can do it.”

The last time an American won gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle discipline was 1984, when Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer also tied and shared the gold medal with 55.92 seconds.

Many members of U.S.A. Swimming took to Twitter to congratulate Manuel on her historic win, including her Olympic Village roommate and fellow gold medalist Katie Ledecky.

“AHHH!!! My roomie @simone_manuel just won a gold medal! I’m shaking. So proud of you. #CHAMP,” Ledecky wrote.

Manuel already won a silver medal for the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

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