Simone Manuel Falters in the Olympic swimming race that created her

Simone Manuel Falters in the Olympic swimming race that created her

OMAHA – Simone Manuel pointed to the scoreboard Thursday night and did the simple math. She finished fourth in the first of two semifinals of her signature event, the 100-meter freestyle, where she owns six of the seven fastest swims by an American woman.

By scanning the results of the second semifinal while standing on the deck, she counted the times faster than hers. There were five who left Manuel somewhere shy to qualify for the final, from which the Olympic qualifiers are selected for the individual event and the 4 x 100 freestyle relay.

If one of the indelible images from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was Manuel’s shocked expression when she realized she was the first in the 100m freestyle to become the first black female swimmer to win an individual Olympic gold, one of the enduring images of these U.S. Olympic trials will be her dismissive appearance when her ninth place became official.

She now has one more shot to qualify for the team in the 50-meter freestyle with the preliminary races on Saturday. She was the 2016 Olympic silver medalist.

After the 100-meter run on Thursday, Manuel, 24, talked about being diagnosed with overtraining syndrome in March. “It has not been easy by any means,” said Manuel, who added that she has struggled to cope with the symptoms, which include muscle soreness, weight loss and loss of appetite, fatigue, a drop in sports performance, prolonged recovery time and an increased heart rate. at rest and during exercise.

“During this process, I was definitely depressed,” Manuel said. “I isolated myself from my family.”

After limiting her training to two weeks without any significant improvement, she took three weeks off completely from swimming and returned to the water in mid-April. But she was never able to regain her consistency in training.

“I did everything I could possibly have done to set myself up to be my very best at this meeting,” Manuel said.

“I want to go for it,” she said. “I don’t think I would have turned up for trial if I did not feel I had any reason to be here.”

She added: “I’m just hopeful.”

But the light speed she trusts in the 100 was not there in the semifinals. Manuel’s time of 54 minutes and 17 seconds was 0.02 seconds slower than the 8th place sent by Erika Brown, who finished fifth in the second semifinal. Natalie Hinds and Olivia Smoliga were the best qualifiers, both with 53.55.

Manuel swam a 52.70 to tie the gold in Rio with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and lowered the US record to 52.04 at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, on his way to winning a record seven medals, including four golds.

Meeting with journalists about an hour after her run, Manuel spent 25 minutes surfing a wave of emotions: crying, dismissed, determined. She talked about the frustrations of seeing physical improvements one day and then growing winning climbs up the stairs at Stanford Pool the next.

She also touched on the mental toll of being a black person during a year of racial unrest; an athlete dealing with a year-long postponement of the Olympics and a high-performance machine plagued by physical fights that began in January and gradually deteriorated.

“I think being a black person in America played a role in that,” Manuel said. “The last year for the black society has been brutal, and I can not say that it was not something I saw. It’s not something I can ignore. It was just another factor that can affect you mentally in a drained way. ”

Manuel recognized that she is a perfectionist and can be tough on herself and often find fault with her greatest accomplishments. The betrayal of her body forced her to be kinder to herself and yet reluctantly accept that whatever the outcome, her legacy as an artist and her value as a person was secure.

“I am someone where I achieve something, I always look forward to the next thing,” Manuel said. “I do not want to always sit back and appreciate what I have done. This was the first time I showed up for a meeting, and before I dived into a race, I was proud of myself, and that I think is a big step. ”

Five days earlier, Manuel had attended a press conference with his Stanford Aquatics teammate Katie Ledecky and their coach Greg Meehan. She said she was excited about driving while alluding to challenges without elaborating, as she has been exposed to this year.

Manuel said she refrained from expanding her matches at the time because she focused on a positive outcome. “I just told myself to believe, to believe in my abilities and my abilities to go out there and run,” she said.

She tried to ignore the nagging voice in her head – “the realistic voice” is as Manuel described it – which she could not expect given the health-related gaps in her preparation.

“I did not want people to feel sorry for me,” Manuel said. “I still do not.”