Though Team USA has been no stranger to victory in the Olympic pool this games, Simone Manuel’s gold-medal win last night during the women’s 100 m freestyle final may be the brightest of them all.
The 20-year-old, Texas born swimmer earned a silver medal with Team USA during the women’s 4X100 meter freeform relay nearly a week ago on Saturday.
Last night, Manuel faced tough competition from Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and Swedish powerhouse Sara Sjorstrom, both holding more medals than the Team USA member.
The pressure was beyond taking gold back home. As the New York Times points out, Manuel would make history if she managed to win this individual swimming event, an Olympic first for a black woman.
However, after lagging a bit at the start, Manuel surged ahead when it mattered, touching the pool’s end right alongside Olekiask.
The pair finished at 52.70 seconds, breaking the Olympic record by 0.01.
Manuel’s face broke into an heart-wraming mix of shock and joy as she realized her accomplishment. She shared it warmly with her fellow record breaker as she, Olekiask and later, the bronze winning Sjorstrom, shared hugs.
“It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality,” Manuel told USA Today. “This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.”
Check out our accompanying photo recap of the emotional race and consider tuning in to the many badminton matches today after reading Paste’s “Ratings Boost” article about why it’s awesome.