U.S.’s Simone Manuel wins 50-meter freestyle to lock up spot on Tokyo Olympics team

U.S.’s Simone Manuel wins 50-meter freestyle to lock up spot on Tokyo Olympics team

Simone Manuel qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Simone Manuel qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team for Tokyo in her last chance, winning the 50m freestyle on the final day of the Olympic Trials in Omaha.

Manuel, who was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome in March and was out of the pool for three weeks, won the 50m free in 24.29 seconds. She prevailed by .01 over Abbey Weitzeil, who also made the team in the event.

Last week, Manuel failed to qualify for the final of the 100m freestyle, which she won at the Rio Olympics. Then she shared her diagnosis, impacting her ability to train leading up to the Trials, and that she dealt with depression this year.

“This year has been difficult, especially the last couple months,” Manuel, who won a female record seven medals at the 2019 World Championships, said on NBC. “Before I dove in, I felt like it was my moment.”

U.S.’s Simone Manuel wins 50-meter freestyle to lock up spot on Tokyo Olympics team

When Simone Manuel whipped around to see the “1” beside her name, months of emotions came pouring out.

She closed her eyes, brought her hands together in prayer and struggled to hold back the tears.

Abbey Weitzeil, the woman she had just beaten, leaped over the lane rope with a huge smile — so happy for her friend that she didn’t mind settling for the runner-up spot Sunday.

Everyone in the stands leaped to their feet, saluting Manuel’s perseverance with an ovation that rocked the Omaha arena.

Days after revealing she was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome, Manuel provided the most stirring moment of the entire U.S. Olympic swimming trials on its final night by winning the chaotic 50-meter freestyle.

It was all or nothing for Manuel, whose Olympic hopes came down to one hectic dash from one end of the pool to the other.

She got there first, locking up a trip to Tokyo and the chance to make more history — five years becoming the first Black woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event.

“More than anything, I’m relieved,” she said. “Today may have been the longest day of my life and the longest 50 of my life.”

While Manuel is heading back to the Olympics, Nathan Adrian’s bid for a fourth appearance at the Summer Games came up just short when he finished third in the men’s 50 free.

Caeleb Dressel tied his American record with another dominating performance, touching about a half-body length ahead of Michael Andrew in 21.04 seconds.

Get ready, Tokyo. Dressel will have three individual races at the Olympics, not to mention at least three relays. Plenty of chances to live up the hype as America’s next great men’s swimming star after the retirement of Michael Phelps.

“This is brutal, the pressure. I like it,” Dressel said. “I’m happy we executed well and in a month we get to go have some more fun.”

Andrew earned his third individual event at the Olympics by touching second in 21.48, while Adrian was next at 21.73.

Dressel hopped on the lane rope and splashed the water, while a gracious Adrian came over to congratulate the winner.

The 32-year-old Adrian beat testicular cancer and arrived at Omaha as a new father. He hoped to cap the tumultuous journey with a fourth Olympics, but the eight-time medalist failed to qualify for the final of the 100 free and wasn’t quite fast enough over one lap, either.

That’s OK.

He was eager to see his 4-month-old daughter, Parker.

“My heart kind of explodes just thinking about it,” Adrian said. “I’m so excited go hang out with her and hold her. I’ve got a lot to look forward to when I get home.”

Bobby Finke won the final event of the trials, romping to victory in the 1,500 freestyle in 14 minutes, 46.06 seconds. He was about a half-pool length ahead of runner-up Michael Brinegar, who touched in 15:00.87 and also is Tokyo-bound.

Finke doubled up his Olympic racing schedule after previously winning the 800 free, posting a career best and the fourth-fastest time in the world this year in the 1,500.

“That time means a lot,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to drop in that race for a couple of years now. I’m going to go to Tokyo and try to improve my time.”

But this night was all about Manuel.

Her dreams were seemingly dashed when she failed to even qualify for the final of the 100 free, the event she won at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

After that disappointing performance, she opened up about the struggles she’s been going through. With her body aching, Manuel was diagnosed in March with the condition commonly known as burnout, forcing her to suspend training for three weeks.

The layoff came at the worst possible time, with the Olympic trials right around the corner, and Manuel was clearly not at her best in her first event of the week.

As it turned out, opening up about her condition — and receiving so much support and encouragement from teammates, fans and people she’s never met — seemed to be greatest salve.

“I definitely think sharing that information allowed me to swim more free,” Manuel said. “I have a lot of hard work in the bank.”

It paid off when Manuel furiously covered the length of the pool in 24.29 to edge Weitzeil by one-hundredth of a second.

Weitzeil had already had locked up her spot on the team with a victory in the 100 free, and the second-place showing ensured she’ll also swim the 50 in Tokyo.

No one in the arena was pulling harder for Manuel than the woman swimming in the lane right next to her.

“I told her before we walked out, ‘We’re coming out together,'” Weitzeil said. “During the race, I saw her right there. I was like, ‘Yes! Let’s go! C’mon!’ That’s what I was thinking the whole time’.’

Manuel can’t wait to get to another Olympics. She won’t get a chance to defend her groundbreaking title from Rio, but she’s got no complaints after the past few months.

“Even though I didn’t make it in the 100, my goal was to make to the team,” he said. “I’ll have to regroup and hopefully swim faster so I can win a medal for Team USA.

“I’m glad I can walk away with my head held high.”


Simone Manuel, the 2016 Olympic swimming star who has battled complicated health issues in 2021, completed a remarkable comeback on Sunday night, qualifying for her second Olympics mere months after those health issues forced her out of the pool.
a person swimming in a body of water: Simone Manuel (right) celebrates with Abby Weitzeil after they both qualified to represent the U.S. in the 50-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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© Simone Manuel (right) celebrates with Abby Weitzeil after they both qualified to represent the U.S. in the 50-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics. 
Manuel won the 50-meter freestyle at U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha by 0.01 seconds. Abbey Weitzeil, who qualified in second, leapt across the lane line to hug and congratulate her. Manuel threw her head back into the water in relief, looked up toward the heavens, and brought appreciative hands to her emotional face.
She shook her head, half smiling, half on the verge of tears.She pulled herself out of the pool, and fell into the loving arms of teammates.

“This year has been difficult, especially the last couple months,” Manuel said moments later. “But before I dove in, I felt like it was my moment. And I’m so thankful for the blessings that God has given me.”

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Earlier in the week, Manuel failed to advance to the final of the 100-meter freestyle, the event in which she won gold five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. At an emotional news conference after her semifinal, she detailed a months-long struggle with “overtraining syndrome.” She called it her “biggest fight.”

Symptoms first arose in January, she explained — muscle fatigue, shortness of breath, an elevated heart rate. By March, they’d worsened. Her body was faltering. Manuel, after consulting doctors and her coach, decided to take three weeks off from training. From late March through mid-April, two months before trials, she didn’t swim a single lap.

Manuel said she also suffered from insomnia, anxiety and depression. At times, she didn’t feel like eating. She loves the sport, but at times, she didn’t even want to swim. She isolated herself from her family. Her mom would ask her questions over the phone; she’d snap.

The pandemic, she said, might have contributed to everything that her body and mind were going through. She’d pushed so hard, so consistently, for so long with an eye toward the summer of 2020. COVID-19, and the postponement of the Olympics, put 12 more grueling months on her plate.

“To focus on a goal like that for five years instead of four is draining,” Manuel admitted Thursday. “You’re motivated still to go for it, because it’s your dream. But also, at the same time, it’s like you’re trudging along.”

And then, a few months before the Olympics finally arrived, Manuel’s body wouldn’t let her push it any further.

“My body wasn’t doing what I knew it was capable of,” she said. “I had moments where I didn’t even want to go to the pool, because I knew it was gonna be bad. … And that was hard for me to grasp during that time.”

That she competed at trials was a remarkable accomplishment on its own. “I knew that every race I was going to have at this meet was going to be more of a challenge than it has been in the past,” she said Thursday. Her voice got weak, and sniffles were plentiful, as she recounted her trying year. She said she was proud of herself, no matter the outcome this week.

“This isn’t the last time you’re gonna see me, and this isn’t the last time I’m gonna do something great in the pool,” she promised.

That she won the 50-free final three days later, and that she’s going to Tokyo, might just be the greatest intra-meet turnaround that the sport of swimming has ever seen.

Simone Manuel

Simone Manuel
Simone Manuel before a race
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Personal information
Full name Simone Ashley Manuel
National team United States
Born August 2, 1996 (age 24)
Sugar Land, Texas, U.S.
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 148 lb (67 kg)
Sport Swimming
Strokes Freestyle
College team Stanford University
Medal record

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Simone Ashley Manuel (born August 2, 1996) is an American competition swimmer specializing in sprint freestyle. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, she won two gold and two silver medals: gold in the 100-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter medley, and silver in the 50-meter freestyle and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay. In winning the 100-meter freestyle, a tie with Penny Oleksiak of Canada, Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming and set an Olympic record and an American record.

Manuel also holds three world records as a member of a relay team, and she is a six-time individual NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships champion, becoming one of the first three African American women to place in the top three spots in the 100-yard freestyle event in any Division I NCAA Swimming Championship. From 2014 to 2018, she attended Stanford University, where she swam for the Stanford Cardinal and helped Stanford win the NCAA team championship in women’s swimming and diving in 2017 and 2018. She turned pro in July 2018.

Personal bests

Long course (50 m pool)
Event Time City Date Notes Ref
50 m freestyle 23.97 Budapest, Hungary July 30, 2017 NR, AM [26]
100 m freestyle 52.04 Gwangju, South Korea July 26, 2019 NR, AM [13][31]
50 yd freestyle (SC) 21.17 March 16, 2017
100 yd freestyle (SC) 45.56 March 18, 2017 NR, AM

World records

Distance Event Time Location Date Ref
4 x 50 m Mixed medley relay[a] 1:37.17 Glasgow, Scotland December 21, 2013
4 × 100 m Mixed freestyle relay[b] 3:23.05 Kazan, Russia August 8, 2015
4 × 100 m Women’s medley relay (sc)[c] 3:45.20 Indianapolis, Indiana December 11, 2015
4 × 100 m Mixed medley relay[d] 3:38.56 Budapest, Hungary July 27, 2017
4 × 100 m Mixed freestyle relay[e] 3:19.60 Budapest, Hungary July 29, 2017
4 × 100 m Women’s medley relay[f] 3:51.55 Budapest, Hungary July 30, 2017

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