Swimming: Manuel sees gold as boost for black community

Fri Aug 12, 2016 2:14am EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - As an African-American swimmer, Simone Manuel has carried a weight on her shoulders every time she steps onto the starting blocks.

The gold medal placed around her neck on Thursday could help to lift it.

Making history as the first black woman swimmer to win an individual Olympic title for the United States, Manuel spoke of her desire to change attitudes and addressed some of the issues head-on.

"This medal is not just for me, it's for some of the African-Americans that have come before me and have been inspirations and mentors to me," she said after a dead-heat in the 100 meters freestyle final resulted in two golds being awarded. The other went to 16-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak.

"I think it means a lot, especially what's going on in the world today with some of the issues with police brutality," she added, without going into detail.

"I think that this win kind of helps bring hope and change to some of the issues that are going on."

A string of fatal shootings of black men and women by white police officers has triggered protests, some violent, across the United States in recent weeks.

Manuel, 20, who comes from Houston and attends Stanford University, is one of two African-American women who qualified for the U.S. swim team -- the other being Lia Neal who won a 4x100 freestyle relay bronze in Rio.   Continued...

Simone Manuel cries.  REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth