Rio de Janeiro: US swimmer Simone Manuel on Friday said she hopes her Olympic gold medal will inspire African-American children to take up the sport.
Manuel, 20, became the first black swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal for the US when she tied for first with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in the final of the 100m freestyle at Rio’s Olympic Aquatics Stadium on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.
“This is not just for me, it’s for all the other African-American athletes that have come before me that have been an inspiration. I hope that I can be an inspiration for others to come into the sport. Hopefully they can find the love and drive they need to get to this point,” Manuel said.
Thursday’s result was only the third dead heat in an Olympic swimming final.
Manuel and Oleksiak set an Olympic record of 52.70 seconds to finish ahead of Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who took the bronze medal in 52.99.
Australia’s Bronte Campbell, who qualified fastest for the final and set a world record in the event last month, was fourth in 53.02 seconds.
Despite understanding the significance of her victory, Manuel said she hoped that one day the colour of her skin would no longer be a talking point.
“That’s something that I have struggled with a lot. I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders tonight. It’s something that I carry but I hope that it goes away,” she said.
“I am glad I can be an inspiration to others and help diversify the sport. But I look forward to the day when there are more black swimmers and I am not just as known for that reason,” she added.