Simone Manuel is a two-time Olympian, five-time Olympic medalist, and the first African-American woman to win an individual swimming gold medal. Her victory broke barriers in a sport that has historically lacked diversity.
Simone began swimming at a young age. She quickly showed promise and dedication to the sport, joining a local swim team and working through the ranks. Her breakthrough moment came at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Simone won four medals, two golds, and two silvers, and made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming. The event was the 100-meter freestyle, and Simone’s performance was not only a personal victory but a historic moment for diversity in a sport that had long been predominantly white.
What made Manuel’s achievement even more significant was the context of swimming’s history. Historically, black swimmers faced obstacles and racial biases that limited their participation in competitive swimming. Simone’s gold medal shattered stereotypes and inspired a new generation of swimmers, proving that talent knows no racial or ethnic boundaries.
Simone and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak touched the wall simultaneously in the pool that day in Rio, resulting in a tie for the gold medal. Simone’s emotional reaction and tears of joy highlighted the magnitude of her accomplishment. Beyond the medal, her victory sent a powerful message about representation and the potential for change in the traditionally exclusive world of competitive swimming.
Simone Manuel has been associated with several brands as an ambassador or sponsor. Simone signed a sponsorship deal with Nike, a brand that aligns with her brand, and will support her in publicly pushing for social justice causes. In a recent Think Tank Campaign, Nike donated to a charity close to Simone’s heart, the Social Impact Fund, an organization that helps members build and grow their charitable footprint through grants, fundraisers, and more.
Simone also signed with TYR, a well-known swimwear and equipment brand. She became what is believed to be the first professional athlete to put an “inclusion rider” in her contract. An inclusion rider is a stipulation included in an individual’s contract that requires cast and crew on a set to meet a given level of diversity (this might entail a certain number of women, people of color, LGBT people, or people with disabilities). This is once again an example of Simone using her success to provide opportunities for underrepresented communities.
Simone’s impact extends beyond the pool, as she has become an advocate for inclusivity in swimming and sports at large, using her platform to promote diversity and equal opportunities for athletes of all backgrounds. Her journey serves as an inspiration not only to aspiring swimmers but to anyone facing barriers in pursuit of their dreams.