History was made yesterday as both Simone Biles, 19, and Simone Manuel, 20, took home individual gold medals in their respective sports.
The first to win three consecutive world champion titles, Biles took won the gold in the individual all-around competition last night. That can be attributed to her extraordinary talent, unwavering spirit, and artistic technique when performing. She concluded her four-performance competition with an impressive floor routine that was welcomed by a standing ovation. Her normally high-spirited demeanor was broken by tears.
“Because I knew I finally did it,” Biles said. “Because every emotion hit me at once.”
Reported by BBC Sports, no female gymnast has ever had her athletic power or the ability to soar to the heights she consistently reaches. This accomplishment also makes United States the first country to have four consecutive all-around champions. Biles’ accomplishment is precedented by the 2012 champion and her Rio team-mate, Gabby Douglas.
Beyond the beam and into the pool was Simone Manuel who also made history and broke an Olympic world record – all under a minute’s time. Manuel won the women’s 100-meter freestyle in 52.70 seconds and tied with Penny Olesksiak of Canada for the record-breaking time.
With the win, Manuel gave the United States its first gold medal in this event since 1984 and is the first African-American woman to do so.
The perception that African Americans cannot swim dates back to institutional racism of America’s past. Segregation kept African Americans from joining public swimming pools, and pools eventually built in African American communities during integration were often of poor quality. For generations, African Americans who could have learned to swim were simply not given the opportunity.
On the significance of her accomplishment, Manuel says, “I definitely think it raises some awareness and will get them inspired.”
“…the gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport. For people who believe that they can’t do it, I hope I’m an inspiration to others…”