Simone Manuel bravely fought through adversity to make it to the Tokyo Olympics while also putting a spotlight on self-care and mental health.
Simone Manuel doesn't have anything left to prove. In 2016, Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming at the Rio games, where she went on to win three more medals—one gold, two silver. With four Olympic medals under her belt, she set a new standard for activist athletes with an unprecedented inclusion rider, which stipulated that her sponsor, swimwear brand TYR Sport, meets specific inclusion standards and provides meaningful opportunities for marginalized people. But even though Manuel's winning streak continued throughout 2019, by the time she started competing to qualify in the Tokyo Olympics, she began experiencing overtraining syndrome, a medically diagnosed form of "burnout," that causes nerve and muscle pain, stress and depression. But she still fought through it to qualify for the 50m freestyle and was voted co-captain by her teammates. Though her Olympic plans didn't go as expected, she still managed to win a bronze as part of the 4x100 freestyle relay team. Like tennis phenomenon Naomi Osaka, Manuel has become an outspoken advocate for self-care and prioritizing mental health. No longer the underdog, the 25-year-old redefines success as persevering and standing in her truth.