By Chelsea White – USA Swimming Communications Intern
2013 was an amazing year for Simone Manuel (Sugar Land, Texas). She won gold by swimming in the preliminaries for the 400 freestyle relay at the FINA World Championships, earned the fastest 50 freestyle time (24.80) for U.S. women in 2013, and also anchored in the tiebreaking mixed 200 medley relay to help the U.S. claim victory in the Duel in the Pool competition. Yet despite her outstanding year’s accomplishments, the 17-year-old has a lot more to look forward to in 2014. She will be graduating high school, finishing up her last year swimming for her club the First Colony Swim Team, Inc. (FCST-TX), and will be joining the women’s swim team at Stanford University this fall. USA Swimming caught up with the young star during her last club visit to the Olympic Training Center.
The Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool was not too long ago. How has it felt entering the New Year with such an amazing international win under your belt?
Simone: “It was such an exciting meet. I did not swim for my high school so it was pretty cool being in a duel meet like that. I feel like it gave me a feel of what it will be like going into college and competing. So overall after that meet I am just really excited for the year to come.”
Did you like having that anchor spot during the tiebreaking race?
Simone: “Yeah it was pretty exciting! I was pretty nervous beforehand, but a couple of the veterans gave me some advice before I swam. We had a pretty good lead going in, so I just swam the best that I could.”
Was that your most proud moment of the year?
Simone: “Yes because definitely the Duel in the Pool competition was my favorite for the year. The atmosphere was a lot more intimate than being at for example World Championships because your teammates are right behind you and they are yelling in your ear. So just how close the competition was it was it made it really fun and thus gave me a really proud win.”
You are a rising star in the sport of swimming, and there is a lot of buzz about what is to be expected of you. How does it feel to be so young and have so much support for your future success?
Simone: “I have a lot of support from my teammates, my family and my coaches, so I just do the best that I can do. I do not really look at the expectations from other people of what they think I can do or how they think I can do. I just try to concentrate on what I know I can do and that is what makes me happy. Having all the support that I do from my family and friends is what makes it fun for me too.”
You hold the fastest 50m freestyle time for American women from 2013 at 24.80. Is it your goal to maintain that top spot?
Simone: “I think that I just want to get better overall in all the strokes, especially freestyle. I just want to work on perfecting some of the things that are not the best in my races and making those assets better. Then the things that I am really good at will eventually get better too. Just overall getting better is my goal.”
What are your goals for the upcoming year and what do you want to improve on and hope to accomplish?
Simone: “I want to improve on my start and my breakout. I also want to work on having a good body line throughout the water the whole time I am competing in a race.”
What are you looking forward to the most with starting your collegiate career at Stanford?
Simone: “I am really excited about starting at Stanford. I have been following the team’s results from this year, and the girls are doing really well. They were actually here at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) so I was able to see coaches Greg Meehan and Tracy Duchac and talk to them. With how they have been performing and swimming at meets I am just really excited to see how the coaches will help me when I get there. I am excited for the team. During my trip I had an instant connection with the girls because they are really caring and hardworking; so that is something to be excited about.”
How has your training been at the OTC?
Simone: “This trip to Colorado Springs has been my fifth time around. This specific trip has been great. Every experience is different; howeve,r because new teammates come and go … I think about half of the group was new this year, and just being able to help them along with their setbacks and their achievements at practices and seeing them grow-up is really cool to watch. Mostly, the seniors in our group were trying to help the youngers kids out; whether it be about being homesick, adjusting to the altitude or having to take care of themselves because they have never been gone away from home this long are the things they looked up to us about and what we gave advice on.”
Did you get to interact with some of the National Team swimmers that were at the OTC training the same time that you were here?
Simone: “I talked to Ryan Lochte, Cullen Jones and Natalie Coughlin. Cullen Jones came over and helped our group with starts for a couple minutes at one practice, so it was just a good time having them there.”