Olympic Gold Medalist Launches Simone Manuel Foundation for Water Safety

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Olympic Gold Medalist Launches Simone Manuel Foundation for Water Safety

Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel on Thursday announced the formation of the Simone Manuel Foundation. Her goal through the foundation is to expand access to water safety and swimming opportunities to BIPOC children.

Manuel made the announced with a video on her social media feed. You can follow the Simone Manuel Foundation on social media here.


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From Manuel’s introductory video:

When I was in the sport growing up, I didn’t feel like I fit in. I started the Simone Manuel Foundation because I want to help BIPOC children better be able to navigate the swim space. There is a huge disparity in the amount of lives that are lost to drowning by BIPOC children. The Simone Manuel Foundation provides funding for programming to bring more water safety and swimming opportunities to BIPOC youth.

The foundation is a coalescence of the efforts Manuel has been doing for years, advocating for access and education for children of color, with organizations such as the USA Swimming Foundation.

To accompany the announcement, Manuel this week also launched a new line of signature swimwear in partnership with Arena. Proceeds of the Simone Manuel Capsule Collection will be donated to the foundation.

Manuel, 27, is a pioneer in representation in swimming, the first Black American female swimmer to win an individual gold medal she tied for gold with Canada’s Penny Oleksiak in the 100 freestyle at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Manuel also won silver in the 50 free at those Games, plus medley relay gold and 400 free relay silver.

She overcame a bout of overtraining syndrome to make the U.S. Olympic team at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in the 400 free relay, earning a bronze medal. She is training for a bid to make the Paris Olympics next summer. She withdrew from nationals/Worlds Trials this summer and is likely to return to the pool for the U.S. Open in December.

The 11-time World Champion is a native of Sugar Land, Texas, and a graduate of Stanford University. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Manuel said she is planning to start the foundation in the Houston metro area that she calls home before looking at expansion. The most likely spot to extend to is Arizona, where Manuel is training in Tempe at Arizona State.

Manuel cited the elevated risk of drowning in Black children and those with limited access to swim lessons or safe swimming environments in her video. The Simone Manuel Foundation, she said, will take aim at the systemic barriers that stand between kids and a safe relationship with the water.

“It’s also just, unfortunately, a cultural issue due to systemic racism and the fact that in the past, Black people were excluded from swim spaces,” Manuel told the Chronicle. “So culturally, it’s become a space where we haven’t felt the most welcome and because of that, people don’t think about pursuing swimming. They decide to pursue something other than that, but then when they’re in spaces around water, they think, ‘Oh, I know how to swim.’ They get in and they don’t.”

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Swim Mom
Swim Mom
8 months ago

Great job Simone!! Cannot wait to hear more about this foundation.

Tonya Arthur
Tonya Arthur
8 months ago

I think this is wonderful! I also felt the need to create awareness of the lack of opportunities for BIPOC to learn how to swim. I founded Joshua’s Dreams Non Profit in Detroit MI to fund opportunities to advance water safety after losing a grandson who tragically died after an accidental drowning incident. Heartbreaking, and preventable. 🥲

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