2015 IMPACT25 Influencer: Simone Manuel


"It is cool to be unique, but I would like to have more people who are like me in swimming." -- Simone Manuel

When Simone Manuel stood on the blocks of the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA championships, she was already making waves.

Manuel, then a freshman at Stanford, was about to compete with teammates Lia Neal and Natalie Hinds -- two other African-American swimmers. And having the trio line up for an NCAA final in swimming, a sport not known for being diverse, prompted commentator and Olympian Rowdy Gaines to tweet #history. Once Manuel hit the water, Gaines could've tweeted that again: With a time of 46.09, Manuel set both NCAA and American records. (Neal finished second, and Hinds third.)

Manuel also took the 50-yard freestyle title, and anchored Stanford's 400-medley and 400-freestyle relays to victories, prompting another Olympian to comment. Missy Franklin called Manuel "fearless" and said she looked forward to having her as a relay teammate in next summer's Rio Games.

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The IMPACT25 is espnW's annual list of the 25 athletes and influencers who have made the greatest impact for women in sports. Explore the 2015 list at espnW.com/IMPACT25.