The 100m Freestyle is arguably the most glamorous swimming event of the entire games. The race is fast, fun and intriguing as the competitors burst through two ends of the pool. Heading into the Rio games, Simone Manuel was not even considered at all as a potential contender, and was thought of as an underdog just to qualify for the final. Despite those very low expectations to begin with, Manuel swam very well in the Prelims and Semis to make the finals. However, most people viewed her performances as a bit of an aberration, and she was looked at as a clear outsider to the medal conversation. In fact, Australian, Cate Campbell was considered the heavy, heavy favorite. Despite her tendency to start slow, it was very evident throughout the qualifying process that Cate Campbell was much, much better than anyone else in the field. Her sister, Bronte, was looked at as maybe the only other swimmer that could even think about beating her. When the actual final race started, everything went as expected. Cate Campbell started slow but by the turn she had a decent lead. I believe Manuel was in third about .5 seconds back, and the eventual co-gold medalist, Penny Oleksiak, was in 7th place. Cate continued to look strong for about the next 25m, but then something happened. Campbell, in shocking fashion, tightened up in an extreme manner. Don’t go me wrong, Manuel swam well down the stretch, but if Cate swam normally, she would have won very comfortably. It was amazing and stunning to watch, as Manuel kept on gaining and gaining and thinking, “Holy Crap! She might win this thing?” When she hit the wall, I didn’t even see Oleksiak. NBC quickly popped up the finishing places and then rapidly panned to Manuel’s reaction. I saw OR next to Manuel, but I also thought I saw a 1 next to Oleksiak. Dan Hicks went quiet for a moment, before confirming that it was a tie for gold. All together, it was an incredible moment. An unbelievable, close, upset race, a priceless reaction from Simone, and the overall historic aspect to the victory. Becoming the first female African-American swimmer to ever win an individual medal is awesome, and should hopefully inspire generations to come. That is what the Olympics are all about.
PS: What an Olympics for the 16 year old Canadian, Penny Oleksiak. 4 (!) medals, and the future for her to become a dominant, star in the sport looks great.