Simone Manuel Makes Triumphant Return to Olympic Team: ‘It’s a Blessing’

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Simone Manuel touched the wall and immediately looked up in hope.

After missing the final in the 100 freestyle, and detailing her struggles leading up to the meet with over training syndrome, Manuel wasn’t sure what she was going to be able to throw into the 50 freestyle. But she used a late reach to get to the wall first at the U.S. Olympic Trials and punch her ticket to Tokyo.

“When I touched the wall, I was like, ‘Please God, please,'” Simone Manuel said. “To see the first place was amazing. I had to sit back and say, ‘Thank you, God.’ I wouldn’t have made it here with the strength he has given me to continue on this path. Faith is hard and arduous. You know there is a bigger purpose in the end. It was a lot of emotions. It is special.”

Manuel won the race in 24.29 ahead of Abbey Weitzeil (24.30), the same duo that made it in 2016.

While Manuel was saying that prayer, Weitzeil was leaping over the lane line to share the moment. Sure, Weitzeil was happy to be making the team in another event, but she was thrilled Manuel will be on another Olympic team with her.

“I turned to my right and say Abbey shooting over the lane line,” Manuel said. “She and I have a friendly rivalry. She is a Cal Bear and a I am a Stanford Cardinal. Every time we step up on the blocks we push each other to be the best. To know the support she had for me is really nice when you have a competitor that competes with you on the blocks but really wants the best for you as a person. It means a lot that people feel that way about me. For someone to consider me a leader is an amazing compliment.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Weitzeil immediately jumped over the lane line to hug Manuel. Just as they had done in 2016, they are going together in this event.

“I’m literally so excited for Simone right now. I don’t even care about the times. I looked at the board and saw she got first and I was so excited. I don’t even care about my race,” Weitzeil said. “She is just an amazing person and a teammate and a competitor. I was really rooting for her in that race. I told Greg (Meehan) before I walked over because he said good luck, I was like, ‘We’re coming out together.’ During the race, I saw her right there and I was like, ‘Yes, let’s go, come on.’ That’s what I was thinking the whole time.”

Manuel missed the final in the 100 freestyle and announced her struggles with over training syndrome, the 50 free was her last chance to make the Olympic team after qualifying third for finals.

“More than anything, I’m relieved,” Simone Manuel said. “Obviously, my goal was to make the Olympic team in the 100 and the 50, but to be back on the team and have another opportunity to swim for Team USA really is a blessing. I’m just happy. Today may have been the longest day of my life. That 50 may have been the longest 50 of my life. I’m just glad to have it over and be able to regroup and get ready for the Olympics.”

Manuel said she was glad she shared her struggles publicly. She felt like it took a weight off of her shoulders.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I definitely think sharing that information allowed me to swim more free. But yeah, the last couple weeks and months have been hard. I’m a consistent hard worker, so taking practices off because my body wasn’t recovering or having to get out early because I may have been tired after a set was really hard for someone who loves to go to pract ice and work hard. Mentally, it was hard, and physically it was hard. I have a lot of work in the bank, so even though the last few weeks were tough, I think it was more important for me to stay motivated mentally more than anything,” Simone Manuel said. “Hopefully I can swim faster so I can win a medal for Team USA. I’m just happy to accomplish part of my goal. Plans don’t always go as you want them to go, but I’m glad I can walk away with my head held high. Whether I made the Olympic team or not, I’m just glad that today worked out for me and I did it.”

Torri Huske finished third in 24.46, followed by Linnea Mack (24.49). Gretchen Walsh took fifth (24.74), ahead of Kate Douglass (24.78), Catie DeLoof (24.80) and Erika Brown (24.93) — all finishing behind Manuel and Weitzeil.

“Definitely I can’t complain. I made the Olympic team in everything. I’m super, super excited. There’s a lot to go and take from this meet and learn. Definitely need to and want to and know I can be a lot faster in five or six weeks. But just taking a minute to celebrate and then getting back to work.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The two of them made the team in 2016 in both sprinting events together and made it happen again. Meanwhile, Torri Huske, the American record holder in the 100 butterfly, was the second seed aiming to make the team in a second event (as were Erika Brown and Kate Douglass), while it was also Gretchen Walsh‘s last chance to join sister Alex on the team.

If that wasn’t enough, the final relay alternate spots all depended on how many swimmers already making the team made it in the 50.

“It’s been very different,” Weitzeil said. “I don’t know if I can explain exactly why, but it’s very different. From what I can remember, this is way more stressful than it was in 2016. I don’t know if that’s because I feel like there’s more at stake. I can’t explain why, but it’s definitely different, just also after this whole entire last year, but it’s fun. It’s fun to be racing again.”

That was all surrounding this one final race for the women, and it lived up to the hype.

Now. Manuel will reset and work with Meehan to come up with a training plan that gets her ready for Toyko, but also doesn’t lead into over training.

Greg is a serial planner. I am sure he will probably have a plan for me by tomorrow morning,” Manuel said. “I think right now it is important to rest and enjoy this moment.”

Women’s 50 Free Top 8 Results

  1. Simone Manuel, 24.29
  2. Abbey Weitzeil, 24.30
  3. Torri Huske, 24.46
  4. Linnea Mack, 24.49
  5. Gretchen Walsh, 24.74
  6. Kate Douglass, 24.78
  7. Catie DeLoof, 24.80
  8. Erika Brown, 24.93

 

2 comments

  1. Jim Pogue

    (sure would have been nice to see THIS live instead of “gulf” – thanks nbc….)

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