Simone Manuel, the first Black woman to win an individual swimming gold medal at the Olympics, won't get a chance to defend that historic medal in Tokyo.
Manuel, one of stars of Team USA in 2016, failed to make the 100-meter freestyle finals at U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha on Thursday night, five years after winning the event in Rio de Janeiro.
The 24-year-old Texan finished ninth in the semis, 0.02 seconds behind the eight-place finisher. The top eight times qualified for Friday night's final.
Manuel still has a chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. She'll swim the 50-meter freestyle this weekend, an event in which she holds the American record. Manuel won silver in it five years ago in Rio.
But her failure to even qualify for the 100 free final was, nonetheless, stunning. Because she wasn't a one-hit wonder in Rio. She went to world championships one year later and won five gold medals. At worlds in 2019, she won four golds and three silvers. Two of the golds were in the 50 and 100 free.
But on Thursday night, Manuel swam her 100 free semifinal, the first of two heats, in 54.17 seconds, more than two full seconds slower than her American record time of 52.04. It was good enough for fourth in her heat. But in the second semi, five swimmers swam faster – including Erika Brown in 54.15 seconds, narrowly edging out Manuel.
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