Manuel became the first African-American female swimmer to take gold in an individual event when she surged home in the final half of the second lap to finish in a time of 52:70.
That tied her with 16-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak, the pair sharing a new Olympic record and both receiving a gold medal.
Manuel said that her victory was extra special in the context of ongoing race issues in the U.S.
“It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality,” Manuel said.
“This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.”
When Manuel looked up after touching the wall, she saw red lit dots on her block that indicated she had at least finished among the podium places, and admitted she was “super surprised” when she turned around and saw the “1” next to her name on the scoreboard.
For Manuel, the victory could not have been sweeter. In the lead-up to the event she forced herself to briefly distance herself from the significance of being a rare black swimmer representing the U.S, in order to focus on chasing victory.