Simone Manuel qualifies for Tokyo Olympics in final chance

Simone Manuel qualifies for Tokyo Olympics in final chance
Posted at 5:13 PM, Jun 20, 2021

In her final chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games, Simone Manuel got it done. 

The reigning world champion -- who missed qualification in the 100-meter freestyle -- finished first in the 50-meter freestyle Sunday night at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, going 24.29 to punch her ticket to Tokyo. 2016 Olympian Abbey Weitzeil finished in second, just .01 seconds behind.

"Before I dove in, I felt like it was my moment," Manuel told NBC's Michele Tafoya after the race. 

Manuel, 24, won the 100-meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympics -- and 2017 and 2019 World Aquatics Championships -- but did not advance to the final of the event at Trials earlier this week. She revealed that she was diagnosed with "overtraining syndrome" in March and took three weeks out of the water from late March through mid-April. Symptoms included insomnia, anxiety and depression, among other things. 

"It was something I didn’t quite notice until my body completely crashed,” Manuel said at an emotional press conference on Thursday night. "This was the first time I showed up to a meet – and before I even dove in to do a race – I was proud of myself. I think that’s a big step. And I hope that inspires more athletes to feel that way.”

Manuel was also entered in the 200-meter freestyle earlier in the meet, but scratched. Even without racing the event individually, she could be considered for a spot on the 4x200 free relay in Tokyo now that she's made the team in another event.

In 2019, Manuel became the first American woman to sweep the 50 and 100 freestyles at a world championships. She won seven medals at the meet, the most ever by a female swimmer at a single worlds.