Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 04 August |
Saint of the Day: St. John Vianney
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Simone Manuel’s Christian witness permeates everything she does


USA's Simone Manuel reacts after she won the Women's 100m Freestyle Final during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 11, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/12/16

In an Olympics where many athletes are sharing their faith, Manuel's regularly dominates her discussions even on social media

When American swimmer Simone Manuel touched the wall of the pool on Thursday night she made Olympic history. Manuel became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event. Along with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, Manuel set a new Olympic record with her time of 52.70.

Immediately after the exhausting 100-meter freestyle race, Manuel was interviewed by NBC and fighting back tears she said, “All I can say is all glory to God, it’s definitely been a long journey these last four years…and I’m just so blessed to have a gold medal.”

She then explained to reporters that she hopes her example will help break down stereotypes and eliminate the focus on her race.

“That’s something I definitely struggled with a lot…Just coming into this race I kind of tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders, which is something I carry with me just being in this position. I do hope that kind of goes away.”

Manuel hopes that other African American swimmers will join her, and that race will cease to be the attribute that dominates the conversation about her swimming career.

“I’m super-glad I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time I’d like there to be a day when there will be more of us and it’s not ‘Simone – the black swimmer.’ The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal or break records.”

Manuel hails from Sugar Land, Texas and currently swims for Stanford. She has been a dominant force in women’s swimming during the past few years, becoming a two-time N.C.A.A. swimming champion. She is also friends with gymnast Simone Biles, who is also from Texas and similarly shares a strong Christian faith.

More to read: Simone Biles, nice Catholic girl who still makes it to Mass and prays

She is not afraid to use her social media to share her Christian convictions, referencing “Phil 4:13” in her Twitter and Instagram bios and writing to her followers, “All Glory to God! Isn’t He awesome! I am extremely blessed.”

Manuel is one of the many Christian athletes this year who have used the Olympic stage to honor God for their success. Her words are reminiscent of divers Steele Johnson and David Boudia, who told NBC, “We both know that our identity is in Christ, and we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to dive in front of Brazil and in front of the United States. It’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us.”

While Manuel is better known in the swimming community, she has been pushed into the global spotlight with her gold medal. The nonprofit organization Diversity in Aquatics said in an interview that “Manuel’s victory could help reverse…a cultural fear of swimming among African-Americans” and encourage others to become lifeguards, coaches and swimmers. Her win even received the attention of tennis superstar Serena Williams, who voiced her support on Instagram.

Manuel looks forward to returning to Stanford in the fall and will be joined by another swimmer inspired by Christ, Katie Ledecky.

More to read: Medals don’t love you back: What Michael Phelps discovered had the power to save him

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Saint Mary of the Angels
Bret Thoman, OFS
All your sins will be forgiven if you go to a Franciscan church o...
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
Philip Kosloski
Most priests can’t absolve these sins
Ary Waldir Ramos Diaz
1st Feast of Our Lady of Silence is August 1
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.