OMAHA — Simone Manuel squinted on the scoreboard on Thursday evening and did the easy math. She had completed fourth within the first of two semifinals of her signature occasion, the 100-meter freestyle, the place she owns six of the seven quickest swims by an American lady.
Scanning the outcomes of the second semifinal whereas standing on the deck, she counted the instances that had been quicker than hers. There have been 5, which left Manuel one spot shy of qualifying for the ultimate from which the Olympic qualifiers will likely be chosen for the person occasion and the 4 x 100 freestyle relay.
If one of many indelible pictures from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was Manuel’s shocked expression upon realizing she had tied for first within the 100-meter freestyle to grow to be the primary Black feminine swimmer to win a person Olympic gold, one of many lasting pictures of this U.S. Olympic trials will likely be her resigned look when her ninth-place end grew to become official.
She now has another shot at qualifying for the workforce, within the 50-meter freestyle, with the preliminary races Saturday. She was the Olympic silver medalist within the occasion in 2016.
After the 100-meter race Thursday, Manuel, 24, spoke about being identified in March with overtraining syndrome. “It has not been straightforward by any stretch,” stated Manuel, who added that she has struggled to handle the signs, which embody muscle soreness, weight reduction, lack of urge for food, fatigue, a decline in sports activities efficiency, extended restoration time and an elevated coronary heart fee at relaxation and whereas exercising.
“Throughout this course of, I positively was depressed,” Manuel stated. “I remoted myself from my household.”
After curbing her coaching for 2 weeks with none vital enchancment, she took three weeks utterly off from swimming, returning to the water in mid-April. However she was by no means in a position to regain her consistency in coaching.
“I did the whole lot I probably might have carried out to set myself as much as be my best possible at this meet,” Manuel stated.
“I’m going to go for it,” she stated. “I don’t suppose that I might have confirmed as much as trials if I didn’t really feel like I had any motive to be right here.”
She added, “I’m simply hopeful.”
However the straightforward velocity that she depends on within the 100 was not there within the semifinal. Manuel’s time of 54 minutes 17 seconds was .02-second slower than the eighth-place time posted by Erika Brown, who completed fifth within the second semifinal. Natalie Hinds and Olivia Smoliga had been the highest qualifiers, each clocking 53.55.
Manuel swam a 52.70 to tie for the gold in Rio with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and lowered the American file to 52.04 on the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, on her option to successful a file seven medals, together with 4 golds.
Assembly with reporters roughly an hour after her race, Manuel spent 25 minutes browsing a wave of feelings: tearful, resigned, resolute. She spoke in regards to the frustrations of seeing bodily enhancements sooner or later after which rising winded climbing the steps on the Stanford pool the following.
She additionally touched on the psychological toll of being a Black particular person throughout a yr of racial unrest; a high-performing athlete coping with a one-year postponement of the Olympics and bodily struggles that started in January and steadily worsened.
“I do suppose that being a Black particular person in America performed a component in it,” Manuel stated. “The final yr for the Black group has been brutal, and I can’t say that wasn’t one thing that I noticed. It’s not one thing I can ignore. It was simply one other issue that may affect you mentally in a draining manner.”
Manuel acknowledged that she is a perfectionist and may be onerous on herself, usually discovering fault with even her biggest feats. Her physique’s betrayal compelled her to be kinder to herself and settle for, nevertheless grudgingly, that regardless of the final result, her legacy as a performer and her value as an individual had been safe.
“I’m somebody the place I accomplish one thing, I’m at all times wanting ahead to the following factor,” Manuel stated. “I don’t really feel like typically I at all times sit again and respect what I’ve carried out. This was the primary time I’ve proven as much as a meet and earlier than I dove in to do a race I used to be pleased with myself, and I believe that’s a giant step.”
5 days earlier, Manuel had taken half in a information convention together with her Stanford teammate Katie Ledecky and their coach Greg Meehan. She stated she was excited to race whereas alluding to challenges, with out elaborating, that she has confronted this yr.
Manuel stated she avoided increasing on her struggles on the time as a result of she was specializing in a optimistic final result. “I used to be simply telling myself to consider, to consider in my talents and my capabilities to go on the market and race,” she stated.
She was attempting to disregard the nagging voice in her head — “the practical voice” is how Manuel described it.
“I didn’t need individuals to really feel sorry for me,” Manuel stated. “I nonetheless don’t.”