Two gold medals won in 100m freestyle as US swimmer ties for first place with Canadian teenager Penny Oleksiak
Simone Manuel made history on Thursday night (11 August), winning the 100m freestyle to become the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming.
Campbell was on pace to take her world record even lower when she made the turn out front, with little sister Bronte right behind her. But the Aussie siblings, who teamed up to lead their country to gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay, couldn't hang on. Bronte faded to fourth, and Cate dropped all the way to sixth at the finish.
Instead, it was Manuel who touched at the same time as 16-year-old Oleksiak, the youngest swimmer in the field. The Canadian became the first swimmer born in the 21st century to win a gold medal in any Olympic sport. Manuel and Oleksiak shared the top spot on the medal podium, with the US anthem played first followed by the Canadian anthem.
"I hope that I can be an inspiration to others, so 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," Manuel said.
Tears rolled down each of Manuel's cheeks as she sang along. "It's been a long journey and I'm super excited with where it has brought me," she said. It was the first victory by USA in the women's 100m freestyle since 1984, when Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer also shared gold.
The last Olympic tie for gold was in the men's 50m freestyle at the Sydney 2000, when Americans Gary Hall Jnr. and Anthony Ervin tied for the top spot on the podium. At the time, Ervin was the first person of African-American heritage to win a gold medal in the pool. He is on the team again in Rio.
Manuel's victory took on added significance in a sport that still has few people of colour. "I think that this win helps bring hope and change to some of the issues that are going on in the world, but I mean, I went out there and swam as fast as I could and my colour just comes with the territory," Manuel said.
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Until now, Cullen Jones had been the face of swimming for minorities in America, having won two golds and two silvers at the last two Olympics. But Jones failed to make the USA team this year in what could have been his final attempt.
Manuel's team-mate, Lia Neal, earned silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay in Rio and bronze on the same relay four years ago at London 2012. Maritza Correia won silver on the same relay at the 2004 Athens Games. Manuel singled out Jones, Neal and Correia for blazing a path.
Inspiring others in her wake
"This medal is not just for me," she said. "It's for some of the African-Americans that came before me and have been inspirations and mentors to me. I hope that I can be an inspiration for others."
Neal pumped Manuel up before the finals by singing and dancing together. "That helped keep the nerves off me," Manuel said. "After the race, I gave her a big hug and I cried and I told her, 'Thank you for everything you've done for me.' She's a huge part of my successes."
Manuel, who attends Stanford University looks forward to a time when there is greater diversity in the pool.
"I would like there to be a day where there are more of us and it's not 'Simone, the black swimmer,'" she said, "because the title 'black swimmer' makes it seem like I'm not supposed to be able to win a gold medal or I'm not supposed to be able to break records and that's not true because I work just as hard as anybody else. I want to win just like everybody else."