Simone Manuel caught the world’s attention when she shattered the glass ceiling at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The U.S. swimmer became the first African-American woman to win an individual event on Thursday night (Aug. 11), after completing the women’s 100-meter freestyle in a record-breaking time of 52.70 seconds.
After finishing beside Canadian Penny Oleksiak in the event’s first tie since 1984, the Houston native took home the gold in an impressive Olympic debut, a feat that’s been in the works throughout her 20-year-old lifetime.
Here are five things to know about the trailblazing Olympian:
Simone kicked off her swimming career when she was four:
Simone developed a deep-seated interest in swimming after watching her two older brothers participate in the sport to the point that she asked to join the swim team at the tender age of four. While her parents didn’t honor her request, they enrolled their daughter in classes so she could acquire essential water safety skills. The rising star exceeded their expectations when she swam across the pool by her second lesson.
She’s a student athlete at Stanford University:
Simone is a rising junior at the NCAA Division I school, where she says she has been challenged both academically and athletically. After a remarkable first year on the swim team, she opted out of competing in the 2015-2016 season to center her efforts on training for the Olympics, which evidently worked in her favor. By the looks of it, Simone’s teammates are anything but mad at her decision as they celebrate her win.
An inspiration to so many.
Congrats, Simone! pic.twitter.com/XuS4SOBiRg
— Stanford W. Swimming (@stanfordwswim) August 12, 2016
She’s not new to making history or breaking records:
Simone emerged as the first American swimmer to break the 25 second barrier in the 50-meter freestyle as a junior swimmer in 2013. During her freshman year at Stanford, the Cardinal swimmer broke both the NCAA and American records in the 100-yard freestyle, completing her signature event in 44.62 seconds. She is also one of two black women to qualify for the U.S. Olympic swim team for the first time in history, an honor she shares with Stanford teammate Lia Neal.
days until race day 🇺🇸🇧🇷🎉 @swimone13
A video posted by lia m. neal (@lia_neal) on
When she’s not in the pool, she’s more than likely in the kitchen:
Cooking stands at the top of Simone’s list of favorite hobbies. During her free time, she can be found making her favorite dishes. “It is just very relaxing to me,” she told NBC. “Just about anything that I like to eat, I can cook – chicken, salmon, stir fry.”
Family comes first for this swimming champion:
Simone is a proud Olympian, but she’s even more excited to be a little sister to her two best friends, who she credits for helping her grow into the champion she is today. “I am fortunate that I have two older brothers and they have definitely helped me with being competitive just to keep up with them,” she told USA Swimming.