On Thursday night, August 11th, the much-anticipated women’s 100-m freestyle race ended in a dramatic and historic manner…
At 16 years old, Oleksiak is Canada’s youngest-ever Olympic champion and the first Canadian to win Gold in Rio making her the most decorated Canadian athlete of the Summer Games.
Simone Manuel is 20 years old and the first Black woman in history to win a gold medal in individual swimming and the first African-American to win an individual swimming medal at all.
With her historic gold medal win, Manuel is helping to break down the long-held stereotype of black people and swimming.
Dating back to post-World War America and for decades after swimming pools were a place of public segregation. The mistaken myths of disease and uncleanliness forced black Americans to stay out of the water. In 1954, when Las Vegas performer Dorothy Dandridge dipped her toe in the pool at the Hotel Last Frontier, it was immediately shut down, drained, and scrubbed by Black employees….all in the name of “white safety.”
As a result of keeping Black children out of pools and beaches for decades, 70% of today’s African-American children are unable to swim well (if at all) and are 3 times as likely to drown. The problem is, as a USA Swimming Report found, if a parent can’t swim, there is only a 13% chance the child will learn.
This is why Manuel’s win is so important – and while she doesn’t like being singled out as a “black swimmer” – she does understand the significance of her winning race.
“I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders as it is something I carry with me being in this position, but I do hope it kind of goes away. I am super glad with the fact that I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time, I would like there to be a day when there are more of us, and it’s not ‘Simone, the black swimmer.” ~ Simone Manuel
I believe in order to make positive change in our communities, in sports, and in the world around us, it’s best to lead by example and with her determination and hard work Simone Manuel is doing just that. #breakingbarriers