Simone Manuel became the first African American woman to ever win an individual swimming gold medal at the Games.
Manuel, 20, had to share her 100-meter freestyle gold with Canadian Penny Oleksiak, 16, of Canada.
?I never thought I would be in this position, but I?m so blessed and honored to be on the medal stand,? Manuel said of her achievement.
Manuel?s win was the night?s biggest surprise. She found herself in third place after the first 50 meters, but rallied to finish in 52.70 seconds and drop more than four-tenths of a second from her semifinal time. The mark set a new Olympic record and is the first gold medal for the U.S. in the race since 1984.
?It?s been a long journey for me,? Manuel said. ?I definitely worked hard these past four years, day in and day out. Just to see it pay off when I really needed it is something I?m really grateful for.?
Tears streaked down Manuel?s face as she shared the medal podium with Oleksiak.
?When I came in tonight, I was like ?I want to get on that medal stand,?? said Manuel, the second-place finisher in the race at the U.S. Olympic trials. ?Just surpassing that goal ? is super exciting to me.?