Simone Manuel Continues to be Important Trailblazer for Team USA as Captain

Simone Manuel reacts after making the Olympic team. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Editorial content for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games coverage is sponsored by GMX7.
See full event coverage. Follow GMX7 on Instagram at @GMX7training #gmx7


Simone Manuel made history in Rio becoming the first African-American to win individual gold at the Olympics. It was a pivotal moment in the sport’s history and an extremely emotional moment for Manuel and her country.

Five years later, she is continuing to be a pioneer in swimming. She was selected as a captain of Team USA, the first African-American to hold that distinction in swimming as well, being selected along with Allison Schmitt, Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Murphy.

After an extremely difficult year and Olympic trials, Simone Manuel detailed her struggles and has fought through them to make the team in spectacular fashion.

It is another way she is proving to be a leader, trailblazer and champion in the sport of swimming.

“The biggest thing is if you have a dream, nothing can stand in your way, not even yourself. I have definitely dealt with the doubts of others and my own doubts,” Simone Manuel said. “It is extremely important to keep your goals and your passion at the forefront. It is hard to deal with that when people tell you what you can and can’t do. I love swimming and I love competing. I am humbled by the fact that I can inspire others. Those are things that helped me realize my purpose in this sport.

“If you have that passion, don’t let anyone take it away from you — especially yourself.”


Simone Manuel. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Manuel has had her own struggles in the sport, especially recently. She had an emotional surge onto the Olympic team by winning the 50 freestyle at trials. That came after a week that saw her detail her struggle with over training syndrome and miss qualifying in the 100 free as the defending Olympic champion in the event.

“I definitely think I am swimming more free because I made the team. It was freeing to tell my story but at the end of the day I still expect big things from myself,” Manuel said.

That hasn’t changed, but her approach has.

“I am managing it the same way I did before trials. Just trying to get as much recovery as I can, as much sleep as I can — going hard in practice when I need to but backing off if I need to. I know I still have to take care of my body so I can perform well,” Manuel said. “I have gotten a lot of support from people. I think it is a conversation that I would love to have in more depth after the season.”

Team USA coach Greg Meehan, who also coached Manuel at Stanford, is seeing the progress as Manuel focuses on her 50 free and also has a chance to be part of relays.


Simone Manuel. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Simone is doing well. She has come out of Olympic trials and been getting better day by day. Right now, she is keeping her focus on her individual events,” Meehan said. “As we look at every relay, we look at putting together the four individuals who will help us compete for a medal, and hopefully a gold one. There will always be conversations about putting together this group with the data we have.”

Manuel said she wasn’t getting too far ahead of things and trying to focus on her event, though the would be ready for a relay.

“I am just focusing on my event, the 50 free. I think it is important for Team USA to put the past four on the relays. Whatever the coaches decide, I am OK with,” she said.

Whether it be a 50 free or a 50 free plus relays, Simone Manuel will continue to make her impact on Team USA as a leader, captain and champion.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x