Swim fans watched breathlessly as American swimmer Simone Manuel tied with Canadian Penny Oleksiak, winning the gold medal in 100-meter freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The closely-watched race was a major win for North American fans, and Simone Manuel's reaction to winning gold and becoming the first black woman to win an individual swimming championship was amazing and indicative of the immensely historic nature of her win.
As Manuel and Oleksiak touched the wall at the same time, the camera zoomed in on Manuel, as she looked back to see her score. She then visibly gasped, and covered her mouth as she smiled wide and looked away in amazement. A truly beautiful moment captured on camera, and one that many will surely remember in playback videos — and possible GIFs — for years to come.
This is the 20-year-old Stanford University swimmer's first time at the Olympics, but her record-breaking gold medal win isn't her first time making history. Manuel and teammate Lia Neal are the first African-American swimmers to compete simultaneously on America's Olympic swim team, and in 2015, Manuel was one of three African-American athletes to win the top three spots at the NCAA women's swimming championship — a first in NCAA history. She's also the first African-American to medal in an individual event in the sport and, more specifically, the first black woman to win gold in an individual swimming event.
Manuel's reaction perfectly sums up the joy and pride of American teams and their historic wins across events at the Rio Olympics so far.
In an interview after her big win, USA Today's For the Win reported, Manuel was visibly, beautifully emotional as she described the significance of her gold medal while tears streamed down her face:
This medal is not just for me, it’s for a whole bunch of people who have came before me, and been an inspiration to me and it’s for all the people after me who believe they can’t do it. I want to be an inspiration to them that they can do it.
Manuel's reaction wasn't the only one that showcased the greatness of her achievement. Her teammate Katie Ledecky, another Team USA swimmer whose star is on the rise, tweeted about how proud she is of Manuel, and others took to Twitter to celebrate the implications of her win as well.
Though they're less than a week underway, the Rio Olympics are already proving to not only be excellent international entertainment, but groundbreaking and historic as well.