Simone Manuel Falters in the Olympic Swimming Race That Made Her

OMAHA — Simone Manuel squinted at the scoreboard on Thursday night time and did the basic math. She had completed fourth in the first of two semifinals of her signature occasion, the 100-meter freestyle, the place she owns six of the seven quickest swims by an American girl.

Scanning the outcomes of the second semifinal whereas standing on the deck, she counted the instances that had been quicker than hers. There had been 5, which left Manuel one spot shy of qualifying for the closing from which the Olympic qualifiers will probably be chosen for the particular person occasion and the four x 100 freestyle relay.

If one among the indelible photos from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was Manuel’s shocked expression upon realizing she tied for first in the 100-meter freestyle to change into the first Black feminine swimmer to win a person Olympic gold, one among the lasting photos of this U.S. Olympic trials will probably be her resigned look when her ninth-place end turned official.

She now has yet one more shot at qualifying for the crew, in the 50-meter freestyle, with the preliminary races Saturday. She was the Olympic silver medalist in 2016.

After the 100-meter race Thursday, Manuel, 24, spoke about being recognized in March with overtraining syndrome. “It has not been easy by any stretch,” mentioned Manuel, who added that she has struggled to handle the signs, which embrace muscle soreness, weight reduction and lack of urge for food, fatigue, a decline in sports activities efficiency, extended restoration time and an elevated coronary heart price at relaxation and whereas exercising.

“During this process, I definitely was depressed,” Manuel mentioned. “I isolated myself from my family.”

After curbing her coaching for 2 weeks with none vital enchancment, she took three weeks utterly off from swimming, returning to the water in mid-April. But she was by no means in a position to regain her consistency in coaching.

“I did everything I possibly could have done to set myself up to be my very best at this meet,” Manuel mentioned.

“I’m going to go for it,” she mentioned. “I don’t think that I would have showed up to trials if I didn’t feel like I had any reason to be here.”

She added, “I’m just hopeful.”

But the simple velocity that she depends on in the 100 was not there in the semifinal. Manuel’s time of 54 minutes 17 seconds was .02-second slower than the eighth-place time posted by Erika Brown, who completed fifth in the second semifinal. Natalie Hinds and Olivia Smoliga had been the prime qualifiers, each clocking 53.55.

Manuel swam a 52.70 to tie for the gold in Rio with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and lowered the American file to 52.04 at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, on her solution to profitable a file seven medals, together with 4 golds.

Meeting with reporters roughly an hour after her race, Manuel spent 25 minutes browsing a wave of feelings: tearful, resigned, resolute. She spoke about the frustrations of seeing bodily enhancements someday after which rising winded climbing the stairs at the Stanford pool the subsequent.

She additionally touched on the psychological toll of being a Black individual throughout a yr of racial unrest; an athlete coping with a one-year postponement of the Olympics and a high-performing machine tormented by bodily struggles that started in January and regularly worsened.

“I do think that being a Black person in America played a part in it,” Manuel mentioned. “The last year for the Black community has been brutal, and I can’t say that wasn’t something that I saw. It’s not something I can ignore. It was just another factor that can influence you mentally in a draining way.”

Manuel acknowledged that she is a perfectionist and may be laborious on herself, typically discovering fault along with her biggest feats. Her physique’s betrayal pressured her to be kinder to herself and settle for, nonetheless grudgingly, that no matter the end result, her legacy as a performer and her price as an individual had been safe.

“I’m someone where I accomplish something, I’m always looking forward to the next thing,” Manuel mentioned. “I don’t feel like sometimes I always sit back and appreciate what I have done. This was the first time I have shown up to a meet and before I dove in to do a race I was proud of myself, and I think that’s a big step.”

Five days earlier, Manuel had taken half in a information convention along with her Stanford Aquatics teammate Katie Ledecky and their coach Greg Meehan. She mentioned she was excited to race whereas alluding to challenges, with out elaborating, that she has confronted this yr.

Manuel mentioned she kept away from increasing on her struggles then as a result of she was specializing in a constructive end result. “I was just telling myself to believe, to believe in my abilities and my capabilities to go out there and race,” she mentioned.

She was attempting to disregard the nagging voice in her head — “the realistic voice” is how Manuel described it — that she couldn’t count on given the health-related holes in her preparation.

“I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me,” Manuel mentioned. “I still don’t.”

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