We interviewed United States Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Simone Manuel when she was in Manhattan recently. She is from Texas, and in the 2016 Olympics, she won two gold and two silver medals.
How old were you when you started swimming?
I started swimming when I was 4 years old. I joined swim lessons at 4, and then I started swimming competitively the next year when I was 5.
When you were growing up, were your friends ever jealous of you?
I don’t think that I had friends who were jealous of me. But I do think that if you do have friends that are jealous of you, just continue to work toward your goals and don’t let anyone stand in your way.
What inspired you to start swimming?
I had two older brothers who knew how to swim and I wanted to do everything that they knew how to do. My parents thought it was super important that I learn how to swim and join swim lessons. And that’s what inspired me to learn how to swim.
How do you get the confidence to win?
I think I get the confidence to win just by the goals that I have for myself. I continue to set goals to get better, and then when I get better, I win. And then I continue to set those goals higher and higher so that I can achieve them.
What does it feel like standing listening to the national anthem representing your country?
It’s amazing ... It’s just such a great honor to be able to do what I love, and also be able to represent the USA the best way I know how to. It’s such an honor.
How many hours do you practice a week?
I practice 20 hours a week. A lot!
Have you ever broken any records?
I have broken several records. A good amount. [Most recently Simone completed a sweep of the 50- and 100-meter freestyles at the world swimming championships in South Korea].
How do you keep going even though sometimes you lose?
I think that every athlete loses. It’s a part of the sport, but you just have to continue to focus on your goals and push toward them. And I definitely think I learn more from my losses than my wins and those help me have better wins. Losses aren’t fun, but they definitely are a learning experience.
What did you do to celebrate when you won the first Gold Medal?
After I won my first Gold Medal, I didn’t really celebrate because I had other races to go for the Olympics. I just tried to refocus as best as I could. But that’s really hard. It was really hard to go to sleep that night, but I didn’t really celebrate.
What do you eat to stay healthy?
I eat lots of salad, pasta, fruits, smoothies, vegetables. Anything that’s healthy to make sure that I stay healthy.
Do you get nervous when the spotlight is on you?
I don’t think I get nervous when the spotlight is on me. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself, so I really just try to focus on doing my best and if I do my best, then I should be pleased with my performances when I get out of the water.
What is your definition of trying your best?
My definition of trying my best is just giving 100 percent every time you’re in practice, every time you’re in the weight room, every time you’re in the pool, every time you’re eating. So, I just try to do my best and that means giving 100 percent.
Can you tell us about the Goggles On program?
Yes. The Goggles On program is an initiative with USA Swimming Foundation to inspire people to continue to get in the water and hopefully save their lives. Swim lessons are so important and can save your life, and so Goggles On has inspired everyone around the world to really tell their story and get in the water.
What do you do before meets or competitions?
I just do kind of like my normal routine, which is warming up and making sure I eat healthy so that I’m prepared to practice well or compete well.
Nancy Feinstein’s Girls on the Run Club, Williston Park