Making Olympic History

Rio De Janeiro–This week two Black women, both named “Simone” made Olympic history in the 2016 Summer games.

Artwork by BVN contributor Nikkolas Smith.

Simone Biles

It began when gymnast Simone Biles, who stands only 4 feet 9 inches tall, led the American Women’s Gymnastics team to Gold in the gymnastics’ team competition. The Russia team took the silver, while China earned the bronze.

During the event, America virtually crushed all competition as the talented team performed up to and in some instances, exceeded expectations in every category. On a team full of stars that not only includes Biles but also Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian—it was Biles’ performance that shone brightest of all.

Even so, it was also an historic moment for her teammates Gabrielle Douglas and Aly Raisman who became the first American women to win three Olympic gold medals in gymnastics.

After giving it all for the team, on Thursday, Biles competed in her own right. Although she briefly fell behind in scoring during the first half of the competition she ultimately won the individual all-around gold medal by more than two points. Her teammate Aly Raisman took the silver and the Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina took bronze.

Although the Biles victory in the individual all-around competition was largely expected, it was stunning all the same when she won gold by the largest margin of victory since the Olympic gymnastics’ officials switched to the current scoring system in 2006. On Sunday, Biles and her teammates will compete for more medals in the individual apparatus events.

Simone Manuel

Biles was not the only “Simone” to make history this week. In a stunning surprise, also on Thursday, Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel tied for the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle and in the process—became the first African-American (male of female) in history to win an individual event in Olympic swimming while also setting an Olympic record. Manuel tied with Canadian swimmer for the fastest time and set a new Olympic record of 52.70 seconds in the event.

Manuel was not finished. She won a silver in the 50-meter free style; and she swam for gold as the anchor in the 4 by 100-meter medley relay on Saturday.

During an interview subsequent to her historic victory on Thursday, Manuel talked about the significance of her accomplishment for the African American community, especially for the young. “I definitely think it raises some awareness and will get them inspired,” Manuel told an NBC reporter. “I mean, the gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport.”

Manuel said she hopes her success is an encouragement to others who do not believe they can do it. “I hope I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming. You might be pretty good at it.”

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