Why This Gold Medalist Spoke Up About Race & Police Brutality After Her Historic Win

Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images.
We're a week into the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, and we've already witnessed history being made and records being broken. In the case of Team U.S.A., we can celebrate out-of-this-world athletes such as Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, and Michael Phelps.

But last night, a new barrier was shattered when swimmer Simone Manuel became the first Black woman to win an individual swimming medal at the Olympics. And that medal? It was a gold one.

The historic win came when the 20-year-old tied with Canada's Penny Oleksiak for the fastest time, establishing a new Olympic record in the women’s 100-meter freestyle.

And the champion used her victory as a platform to speak up about an important subject: race and police brutality in the U.S.

"It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality," she said, according to USA Today. "This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory."

The Texan swimmer dedicated her medal to former Olympians, such as Maritza Correia and Cullen Jones, who paved the way for her victory to be possible. She also spoke up about what it means to be a Black swimmer.

"Coming into the race, I tried to take the weight of the Black community off my shoulders. It’s something I carry with me. I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not ‘Simone the Black swimmer'," she said. "The title of Black swimmer suggests that I am not supposed to win golds or break records, but that’s not true because I train hard and want to win just like everyone else."

Manuel's victory is also significant due to the racially charged issues surrounding swimming pools in the U.S.

During the segregation era, Black people were often prohibited from accessing public pools, and even after that ended, white people still found loopholes to exclude the Black community, according to the BBC.

This legacy still has an impact today. According to USA Swimming, 70% of Black children don't know how to swim, and Black children drown at a rate almost three times higher than their white counterparts.

So it's not a surprise that people all over social media rejoiced when they witnessed Manuel make history in Rio de Janeiro.
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Pure #BlackGirlMagic and a pioneer, indeed.
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