Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Manuel is only 20-years-old. However, her history-making win at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games—where she became the first African American swimmer to win an individual Olympic Gold medal—has allowed her to become a voice of expertise when it comes to matters of swimming and, to some extent, life.
Simone Manuel, the first African American swimmer to win an individual Olympic gold medal. (Photo courtesy of USA Swimming Foundation)
The Stanford University student is currently part of the USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” initiative that, since 2007, has helped five million U.S. children learn to swim with free or low-cost swim lessons. The USA Swimming Foundation’s “Make a Splash” initiative partners with communities, learn-to-swim providers, and other national organizations to provide swimming lessons to children and families. Their goal is to reach one million children annually.
BLACK ENTERPRISE caught up with Manuel in a recent phone interview, where she discussed why she felt it necessary to participate in this initiative, as well as the importance of young people learning how to swim, aside from saving one’s life.
Insight From Simone Manuel
BLACK ENTERPRISE: Though an excellent skill to acquire, learning to swim can be a privilege for some, depending on where they live and what resources are available. However, you were able to learn how to swim by the time you turned age four. What can you say to parents and kids or teenagers about why swimming is a vital skill worth learning, especially at a young age?
Simone Manuel: I come from a very athletic family; my parents wanted their daughters to be engaged in sports. It’s so vital to learn this sport; learning how to swim can save your life, and reduce the likelihood of you drowning by 88%. Swimming also allows kids to develop their social and communication skills and [teaches the value of] work hard and setting goals. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others [as a competitive swimmer]. Just being able to learn can make you a better swimmer, professional, or student.
BE: For even the most successful entrepreneur or professional, the potential for setbacks or failure will always be there. What advice do you have for readers on how to get back up to overcome challenges when things don’t go as planned?
SM: Remember the goal you had in the first place. You don’t always reach it the first time around, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. I’m a firm believer in believing in the process; failure is part of success—if you don’t fail, you won’t [ever] know what success[truly] is.
Simone Manuel. (Photo courtesy of USA Swimming Foundation)
BE: What keeps you grounded and focused?
SM: I feel like I was born to do the sport of swimming. However, when I was growing up, my parents would stress how swimming wasn’t all that defined me; it wasn’t the only thing that made me, me. My friends and school have helped to keep me grounded. I have other responsibilities, too. There are other components of my life that allow me to do more than just sit back and think about what I’ve done—I also think about what’s next.
BE: What’s the best advice you’ve received that you’d like to share with those in your age group?
SM: Always believe in your dreams, and protect that. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do or be something, because you can if you are willing to work hard and fight for what you want.
For more information about Make a Splash or to find swimming lessons near you,click here.