Houston Matters

Olympic Swimmer Simone Manuel On Breaking The Stereotype That Minorities Can’t Swim

We revisit our conversation with Sugar Land Olympian Simone Manuel about her career and her mission to encourage more minorities to take up competitive swimming.

Cullen Jones, Simone Manuel, and Johnnie Means
(L-R): Olympic swimmers Cullen Jones and Simone Manuel pose with former competitive swimmer and Houston native Johnnie Means, who serves as director and head coach of the Harris County Aquatics Program, at an event on May 12, 2017.

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Last month, Sugar Land's Simone Manuel capped off her collegiate swimming career by being named the 2018 Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.

Manuel swims for Stanford University, and, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, she became the first African-American woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming, all while setting an Olympic and American record in the 100-meter freestyle. Manuel is a 14-time NCAA champion and a 21-time All-American.

Last summer, Manuel co-hosted an event at the Harris County Aquatics Center's Johnnie Means Swimming Pool near the Texas Medical Center for an event sponsored by the USA Swimming Foundation's Make a Splash campaign, which promotes swimming safety for kids. She and fellow Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones got in the pool to give some neighborhood kids some swimming lessons.

In the audio above, Houston Matters producer Abner Fletcher talked with her about her career and her mission to encourage more minorities to take up competitive swimming.

Manuel made her professional debut last month, winning the 50-meter freestyle in a meet in Indianapolis.

  • FILE – In this July 28, 2017, file photo, United States’ Simone Manuel smiles after winning the gold medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle final during the swimming competitions of the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, HunAP Photo/Petr David Josek, Filegary (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
    FILE – In this July 28, 2017, file photo, United States’ Simone Manuel smiles after winning the gold medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle final during the swimming competitions of the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, HunAP Photo/Petr David Josek, Filegary (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)
  • Cullen Jones, Olympic medal winner also participated in the pool to give some neighborhood kids some swimming lessons at Harris County Aquatics Center’s Johnnie Means Swimming Pool. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
    Cullen Jones, Olympic medal winner also participated in the pool to give some neighborhood kids some swimming lessons at Harris County Aquatics Center’s Johnnie Means Swimming Pool. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
  • Simone and Cullen join together to offer kids some swimming lessons at Harris County Aquatics Center’s Johnnie Means Swimming Pool, during their visit in June 2017 for USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” campaign. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
    Simone and Cullen join together to offer kids some swimming lessons at Harris County Aquatics Center’s Johnnie Means Swimming Pool, during their visit in June 2017 for USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” campaign. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
  • Simone Manuel  during her visit in June of 2017 at the Harris County Aquatics Center’s Johnnie Means Swimming Pool near the Texas Medical Center for an event sponsored by the USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” campaign, which promotes swimming safety for kids. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
    Simone Manuel during her visit in June of 2017 at the Harris County Aquatics Center’s Johnnie Means Swimming Pool near the Texas Medical Center for an event sponsored by the USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” campaign, which promotes swimming safety for kids. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
  • Simone taking time with kids to stress the importance of proper techniques in swim safet;y.  Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
    Simone taking time with kids to stress the importance of proper techniques in swim safet;y. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
  •  USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” campaign, which promotes swimming safety for kids. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
    USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” campaign, which promotes swimming safety for kids. Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
  • Simone and Cullen interacting with children after swimming lessons on safety (June 2017) Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)
    Simone and Cullen interacting with children after swimming lessons on safety (June 2017) Photo: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters (Photo Credit: Abner Fletcher/Houston Matters)

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