TOKYO – After finishing in 11th place overall in the women’s 50-meter freestyle semifinal, five-time Olympic medalist Simone Manuel won’t leave Tokyo with an individual medal. Regardless, she has shown she’s a fighter.
At the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials in June, 24-year-old Manuel revealed she was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome in March that kept her out of the pool for three weeks just a couple months before the event. She said she dealt with numerous symptoms, including insomnia, depression, an increased heartrate, anxiety, lack of appetite and muscle soreness.
To see her efforts through to the Olympics, Manuel said, left her feeling grateful.
“I think a victory is not giving up and I didn’t,” Manuel, the only Black female swimmer to win an individual Olympic gold medal, said. “I had the courage to go out there and try and possibly fail.”
Manuel finished the semifinal in 24.63 seconds, which tied for 11th. The top eight advanced to the final, which included U.S. swimmer Abbey Weitzeil. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Manuel took silver in the event along with gold medals in the 100 free and 4×100 medley relay and silver in the 4×100 free relay.
Although she set the American record in the women’s 100 free in 52.04 seconds at the 2019 world championships, Manuel didn’t qualify for the event in Tokyo. Still, Manuel won’t leave empty-handed – she anchored the bronze-medal women’s 4×100 freestyle relay and contributed the second-fastest split (52.96 seconds) on the team.
“Whether I win another Olympic medal or not, I’ve accomplished so much in this sport that so many people can only dream of,” Manuel said. “I think accomplishments are more than just the medals or the records that you break. I’ve learned so much about myself and what I do know is that I’m a fighter.”
Despite the adversity Manuel faced this year, she said her passion for the sport burns fervently. Her performance in the pool on Saturday, Manuel said, isn’t indicative of her long-term potential. There’s still more out there for the two-time Olympian, who is eying the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I know that my body and my mind needs a break,” Manuel said. “But I still love this sport. I love the people I do it with. I love the people I’ve been able to inspire. And I love it because it’s just something that’s so important to me. Of course I’m gonna keep doing it.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Simone Manuel fights on despite struggles leading to Summer Olympics