Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Swimmer Simone Manuel overcomes odds to qualify for U.S. Olympic team, praises God for success

Only a few days after failing to qualify for the 100-meter freestyle event at next month’s Summer Olympics, U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel rallied to win the 50-meter freestyle on Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Trials to punch a ticket to the Tokyo Games.

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Immediately following her impressive performance, Manuel gave credit to God.

“I just had to take a moment to praise God,” Manuel told NBC Sports after the victory. “I mean, this year has been difficult especially the last couple months, but before I dove in I felt like it was my moment and I’m so thankful for the blessings that God has given me.”

Manuel’s performance came right on the heels of a disappointing defeat on Friday, when she failed to qualify for the 100m freestyle event. She has historically performed well in the 100, having tied for gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. That medal made her the first Black American female swimmer to earn an individual gold medal at the Olympics.

However, her diagnosis of overtraining syndrome made it doubtful she would compete in the Tokyo Olympics. Overtraining syndrome is defined as “a group of symptoms resulting from excessive physical training; includes fatigue, poor exercise performance, frequent upper-respiratory-tract infections, altered mood, general malaise, weight loss, muscle stiffness and soreness, and loss of interest in high-level training.”

Because of this condition, Manuel was forced to halt training for three weeks, limiting how much she could prepare for the trials. After her 100-meter race, however, she said would not give up competing.

“Maybe it didn’t happen today, but this isn’t the last time you’re going to see me,” Manuel said. “And this isn’t the last time I’m going to do something great in the pool.”

Three days later, Manuel put her words into action. And she’s already an Olympic medalist in the 50m too, as she won silver in the event in Rio.

When asked Sunday what had provided her with the motivation to continue to compete in spite of everything working against her, she credited her faith.

“It really was my faith,” Manuel told NBC after the race. “It really drove me to keep going. I kept getting signs from God to keep going and keep pressing forward. I’m a person that doesn’t quit. My family has instilled that fire in me, so I knew that even though the task wasn’t easy, I had to finish it.”

Faith has played an important role in Manuel’s career, and she is quick to recognize that her accomplishments are not merely the result of her efforts but also the divine sovereignty of God. Manuel lists Philippians 4:13 in her Twitter bio, referencing a Bible verse that states, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

“My faith is extremely important to me and God has a purpose and plan for my life,” Manuel told NBC. “Even though it may not always be easy, I know that the work I put in and the blessings that He provides for me that, one day, it will pay off and I’ll see. But all glory goes to Him. I mean, this is amazing. I’m so happy to be on my second Olympic team.”

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