Sixty-four percent of African-American children don’t know how to swim. World Champion Simone Manuel is changing that statistic.
“I am often referred to as “The Black Swimmer.”
While I one day hope to be known as an “Olympic champion” swimmer without that qualifier, I know that I can’t ignore the significance of being an African-American female in the sport.
When I’m referred to as an African-American Olympic swimmer, it makes it seem as though it’s not supposed to be done, which isn’t true. I work just as hard as anybody, I love the sport and I want to win just like everybody else.
I played basketball, volleyball, soccer and danced growing up, but I just had more fun when I was swimming. There were times when it was a challenge to fit in and it wasn’t always easy not having many swimmers who looked like me. But I enjoyed it and wanted to keep swimming and get stronger and faster.
As I kept going in the sport, I asked my mom why there weren’t more African-American swimmers, so we did our research, learning about Olympic medalists Maritza McClendon and Cullen Jones, and Sabir Muhammad and Byron Davis. I looked up to Maritza and Cullen because they shared a common experience and they helped me through some of those hardships with being the ‘only one.'”