Leadership

Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel on defying the odds: There were many hard moments

Simone Manuel made history at the 2016 Rio Olympics as the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold in an individual swimming event. But there were many difficult moments leading up to that incredible one.

"There were many moments that I had doubts about whether I was doing the right sport — if this was for me," Manuel said.

"I always looked around and realized that there weren't many people who looked like myself when I was younger," she said. "But I just stuck with it because it was what I loved to do."

US tennis players Serena Williams and Venus Williams became Simone Manuel's biggest role models.
Justin Tallis | AFP | Getty Images
US tennis players Serena Williams and Venus Williams became Simone Manuel's biggest role models.

As a kid, Venus and Serena Williams became huge role models for Manuel.

"When I was younger I realized they were a minority in the sport they participated in, and that's the same role I'm playing now," Manuel said.

"Just the fact that I knew their journey wasn't easy and that they made it and reached their goals made me want to do the same thing in my sport," Manuel said.

"My accomplishments can hopefully make the path a little easier for someone else who comes behind me." -Simone Manuel, four-time Olympic medalist in swimming

For Manuel, a strong work ethic is the most important trait successful people share.

"The most important characteristic would have to be the amount of hard work they put into reaching their goals and the fact that they never give up," the Olympian said.

"There are so many hard times and so many times when you want to quit or you don't want to wake up and go to practice, but you love what you do and you just want to get better," said Manuel, who balances swimming with studying at Stanford University.

Beyond her own career, Manuel's victory has already inspired others.

"My accomplishments can hopefully make the path a little easier for someone else who comes behind me," she said.

Video by Devin Hance.