Summer 2024

Swimmer Simone Manuel heading to Olympics in 50m freestyle: 'I continue to trust in God'

Swimmer Simone Manuel will represent Team USA in the 50-meter freestyle competition at the 2024 Paris Olympics, following her win in the event at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials on Sunday.

Manuel, who had already secured her spot in Paris as part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team, wanted to compete in an individual event. She was down to her last shot. Yet thanks to her winning time of 24.13 seconds, she’ll have a chance to add another individual Olympic medal to her growing resume.

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Manuel seemed to be in fourth place with 10 meters left on Sunday, but an incredible closing kick gave her the narrow victory.

Manuel spent Saturday night watching highlights of herself in preparation for the race, because her confidence had been shaken.

She managed only a fourth-place showing at the trials in the 100m freestyle individual event, and her qualifying time in the 50m freestyle was only the fourth fastest (nearly a half-second behind Gretchen Walsh, who also qualified after finishing second to Manuel on Sunday).

The 27-year-old Manuel came through when it mattered most.

“I wasn’t feeling too confident after last night,” she told NBC after the race. “I spent a lot of time watching races where I won. I really wanted to channel that Simone, because I know I’m a winner, and that’s what I did tonight. It’s crazy. It’s really special how things turn around in 24 hours and how I continue to trust in God. So I’m really thankful.”

Manuel took to X  where in her bio she cites the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 after first earning her way back to the Olympics last week. She took the time to expand on her thoughts about heading to Paris.

“Wow!!! To God be the glory,” she began, before detailing her difficulties surrounding the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. “… It all started with a call to be obedient and faithful to God’s calling and purpose for my life. Believing in the fact that He is in control, and that He always has much bigger plans for our lives than than we can imagine.”

Manuel described it as a healing process of building her body back to championship form and restoring her soul as she fell in love with the sport all over again. She remains steadfast in her gratitude to God, and to all who helped her get back to her third Olympics.

“I was walking an unpredictable path, but I saw an opportunity,” she wrote. “An opportunity to once again, never give up on myself, to never give up on God.”

At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Manuel burst into the international sports consciousness at 20 years old. She won two golds and two silvers at the Games, including a gold in the 100m freestyle individual event. In doing so, she became the first Black female swimmer ever to win an individual Olympic gold medal.

In the leadup to the Tokyo Olympics five years later, however, she was diagnosed with Overtraining Syndrome and had to take a three-week break from training. This of course set her behind schedule. She still made it to Tokyo in the 50m freestyle and on the 4x100m freestyle relay team, but she didn’t win a medal in the first event and only earned a bronze in the second.

Following those Olympics, Manuel’s doctor ordered her to shut down all physical activity until her body and perhaps her mind completely healed. As she revealed in her X post last week, that season of bed rest lasted five months.

Now back in the pool and back to being one of the best swimmers in the world, Manuel can swim freely. She knows it was God who loved her and cared for her when no one was watching, and He will continue to love her and care for her in Paris. No matter what happens, it’s all a gift from Him.

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