Day 6: Manuel Wins Bragging Rights for Stanford in Rivalry With Cal
Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil took their West Coast rivalry to Rio on Thursday
One hundred meters is not an especially long distance to traverse.
It is just about the length of a football field—or, to further distill it, 328.0839895 feet.
Essentially, it is the shortest of strolls, one that people thoughtlessly make countless times over the course of a day.
In the water, though, it takes a lifetime of work to win a 100-meter freestyle race. On Thursday, two people who have put in the work to make it to the top of their sport, and who are old college rivals, faced off at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio.
Simone Manuel of Stanford University and Abbey Weitzeil of University of California were among the eight swimmers in the final, the latest chapter in a story that usually plays out on the West Coast.
And Manuel permanently wrote her name into the Olympic books by becoming the first African-American female swimmer to earn an individual medal, tying Canada's Penny Oleksiak for the gold. Manuel and Oleksiak each finished with a time of 52:70. Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom's time of 52:99 took bronze.
Weitzeil finished seventh at 53:30.
"I'm so blessed to have a gold medal. I'm so blessed," an emotional Manuel told a NBC Sports reporter after the race before adding: "This medal is for a whole bunch of people who came before me."
Manuel and Weitzeil qualified for the semifinals by ranking among the top eight finishers in Wednesday afternoon’s qualifying heats.
Manuel placed second with a time of 53:32 seconds, trailing only Australia’s Cate Campbell (52:78). Weitzeil was sixth with a time of 53:54, .076 seconds behind Campbell.
Manuel recorded a time of 53:11 in the first semifinal to finish third in her heat. Weitzeil swam her heat in 53:53 to place fourth in hers.
“She is a great competitor,” Manuel told the Orange County Register on July 3, after Weitzeil beat her “by five one-hundredths of a second” in the 50 meters, according to the newspaper, to qualify for the Games in that discipline.
“I don’t think she surprised me,” Manuel added. “You’ve just got to be on your ‘A’ game."
Manuel will also swim in the 50 meters. Those heats are set for Friday, with the finals the next day.
“I think it’s a big deal. Getting an individual swim has been a goal that I’ve dreamed of for four years and then being able to get it in the [50 meters freestyle] is exciting,” Manuel told USA Today on August 8.
“I’m super excited for what’s to come.”
Along with Katie Ledecky, Manuel and Weitzeil personify the present and future of the US. Women’s National Swimming program. The 2016 Rio Games are the first Olympics for both.
“Medaling in the Olympics would be amazing,” Weitzeil said, according to Swimming World Magazine. “But making the Olympic team and getting to be a part of that, that’s what I want to do.”
Both already have in this, the oddest of sports. In swimming, depending on how a squad is constructed, individual rivals could find themselves on the same team.
Which is exactly where Manuel and Weitzeil found themselves on the first day of the Games as they teamed with Ledecky, herself a Stanford signee, and Cal grad Dana Vollmer to win a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
“We all raced as hard as we could. I’m really proud of everyone on this team,” Vollmer told Berkeley Patch.