When she tied for gold in the 100m freestyle, Simone Manuel give Olympics viewers one of the images of the Rio Games with her elated reaction upon seeing the scoreboard. The 24-year-old from the Houston area has only since tightened her grip on the title of fastest female swimmer in the world, most recently sweeping the 50m and 100m freestyle events at the 2019 World Championships. She figures to be busy in Tokyo, potentially participating in up to four relays in addition to her individual sprint events.
As part of our preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what we learned about Simone Manuel:
Tell us about your family?
- Sharron Manuel (mother) pharmacist
- Marc Manuel (father) played basketball at Xavier University and is a business analyst for Shell oil company
- Chris Manuel (brother) played basketball in college and is a graphic designer and art teacher
- Ryan Manuel (brother) played basketball in college and is a teacher and basketball coach
Where does your family come from?
My mom and dad are from New Orleans and my brothers and I were born in Houston, Texas.
Do you have any pets?
I have four snails.
How has your hometown shaped who you are today?
I would associate Houston with home. It’s all about family helping me to where I need to be and shaping me to be the person that I am today. Houston has such a strong sports culture and I think that helped as well.
What does your typical diet look like?
My favorite breakfast is avocado toast with over-medium eggs. Lunch is usually a nice salad with chicken or salmon. And dinner can be pasta or rice and beans with another nice salad. I also love Greek yogurt and fresh fruit for snacks as well as acai and smoothies.
What is your earliest memory of swimming?
I started swimming at the age of four just because my parents wanted me to be safe around the pool when I went there during hot Texas summers. My love and passion for the sport propelled me to dedicate my life to it.
Earliest memory of watching the Olympics?
2008 Olympics watching Michael Phelps win eight Olympic gold medals. 2012 Olympic Trials. Watching people make the Olympic team inspired me to see myself making the Olympic team in 2016.
What would you change about your sport?
Better representation in the sport and the inclusion of para-swimming as an equal partner into USA Swimming. Representation across the board.
What is the biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome?
Being and African American swimmer in a predominately white sport.
What’s your biggest fear when competing?
My biggest fear when competing is my suit ripping right before my race.
Who is your Olympic role model?
Serena and Venus Williams. Lebron James.
What advice would you give a young swimmer?
Get in the pool and get proper swim lessons. Continue to work at your craft. Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone or anything stand in your way. You can do anything if you believe in yourself and work hard to achieve your goals.
Do you have a protege in your sport?
I’m working to inspire more minority swimmers to get in the sport. But I’m hoping that I have inspired many others outside of my sport.
Anyone tell you that you wouldn’t succeed?
Yes. I didn’t believe them. I knew what I was capable of and no one can define your path unless you let them. I also got so much support from my family and coaches and my sports psychologist.
Getting my nails done. Cooking and baking.