Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel gives ‘all glory to God’ after historic gold

Simone Manuel of USA reacts after winning the gold
Simone Manuel of USA reacts after winning the gold and setting a new Olympic record Aug. 11, 2016, in Rio. Photo by Marcos Brindicci/REUTERS

(RNS) There was only one thing for Simone Manuel to say after charging from behind in the 100-meter freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics, tying for first with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, breaking the Olympic record, becoming the first African-American woman to win gold in a swimming event, the first African-American woman to medal in an individual swimming event, and the first American to win the 100-meter since 1984.

“All I can say is all glory to God. … I’m just so blessed,” Manuel told reporters afterward, tears streaming down her face.

RELATED: Faith at the Olympics: Does it give an athlete an edge?

It was the same response she had given to making the U.S. Olympic swimming team in July, tweeting, “All glory to God! Isn’t He awesome!”

And again, after winning the silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay earlier this week alongside Katie Ledecky, Dana Vollmer and Abbey Weitzeil: “All Glory to God! Super blessed by this awesome experience!”

The first-time Olympian won two more medals on Saturday night (Aug. 13) in her final events: a gold as freestyle anchor of the winning U.S. women’s 400 medley relay team and a silver in the individual 50-meter freestyle — a race in which she finished just just two hundredths of a second off the winning time.

All together, Manuel leaves the Rio Games with four medals – two gold and two silver.

But Thursday’s gold was extra special, Manuel told USA Today, given the ordeals that many African-Americans are facing in the United States:

“It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory,” she said.

Her performance should also “bury old, racist stereotypes about black swimmers,” wrote Yahoo Sports columnist Johnny Ludden.

Manuel also said she hoped to be an inspiration to others who think they can’t do the impossible. And she said she looks forward to a time when an African-American female swimmer no longer falls into the realm of impossibility.

“I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not ‘Simone the black swimmer,'” she said.

This year’s U.S. swimming team is the first to include two black female athletes: Manuel and Lia Neal.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.


Click here to post a comment

  • Indeed it would have. “God” was created by, and for men, in their own image: vicious, petulant, power hungry, bullying and vindictive.

  • Manuel is a great swimmer. I’ve been watching the Olympics and several athletes have said similar things about god. One of the things I’m glad to hear is they’re not saying god wanted them to win. If they want to “give glory”, fine with me. Whatever.