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Fireball Award

Simone Biles: A Determined Athlete with a Will to Excel

CKW Luxe is proud to announce that Simone Manuel is our honoree for the Fireball Award. This award goes to an exceptional youth athlete. The winner of this award represents the meaning of teamwork, determination, and passion for the sport.

“When you’re surrounded by good teammates and great people, you can achieve your wildest dreams, because they energize and inspire you. Never stop dreaming.” – Simone Manuel

Simone Manuel, originally from Sugar Land Texas, won gold at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. As a matter of fact, Simone made history by being the first African-American swimmer to win an individual gold medal in an Olympic Games.

But let’s back up a little and learn about how she got to that point. Simone was introduced to swimming when her parents enrolled her in swimming lessons at the age of four. All three of the Manuel children learned to swim at an early age to ensure they were good swimmers and safe in the water.

According to Simone’s mother, Sharron, the fact that Simone had a natural feel for the water was soon evident. Her competitive spirit was also apparent early on, as was her love of the sport. Although her parents had no aspirations for Simone to become a competitive swimmer, Simone had different ideas. By the time she was six, Simone was swimming in a local Sugar Land summer league. At age nine, she decided she wanted to swim year-round. Simone won her first state record when she was ten.

After joining Houston’s First Colony Swim Team at the age of 11, Simone became a top-ranked competitive swimmer under the guidance of Coach Allison Beebe in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events. Making her international debut at the 2011 FINA World Junior Championships, Simone swam to a fourth-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle. At the Junior Pan Pacific Swimming Championships the following year, Simone won the 100-meter freestyle.

Simone didn’t stop there, however, and in 2013, after earning a spot in the FINA World Championships, she set a record time for her age group, becoming the first junior swimmer to break the 25-second mark in the 50-meter freestyle. She also won a gold medal as part of the 4 by 100-meter team. Also in 2013, Simone represented Team USA at the Duel in the Pool. The U.S. team was playing against the European All Stars. Anchoring her team in the mixed relay, Simone showed off her star power by breaking the tie at the end of the meet. In so doing, she gave Team USA a one-point lead, which was all it needed to win.

Throughout the years, swimming has remained Simone’s greatest passion. She has played basketball, volleyball, and soccer. For 11 years, she even took ballet. But she always came back to swimming. In her own words, Simone says, “It just came down to the fact I had more fun when I was swimming.” Eventually, she decided to focus on that sport alone.

From the time she was 11 years old, Simone has dreamed of being on the U.S. Olympic Swim Team. That same year, 2008, Michael Phelps attained the remarkable achievement of winning eight gold medals for the team. He was an inspiration to young Simone, and his example instilled in her the desire to do something similar someday.

After graduating from high school, Simone was accepted at Stanford University. Here she joined the university swim program, soon setting many school records. The culmination of her freshman year occurred at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division Championships, where she won in both the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events. With the latter win, Simone achieved a new American record.

To get ready for Rio 2016, Simone took a year off from school and spent most of her waking hours training to achieve her Olympic dream. At the AT&T Winter Nationals in 2015, she left as the winner of the 50- and 100-meter freestyle. The following summer, Simone earned a spot on the Olympic team with a second-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Simone’s next stop was Rio where she showed the stuff she was made of on the women’s 4 by 100-meter free relay team. With her help, the team won a silver medal and set an American record in that event. The biggest moment for Simone, however, was yet to come.

On August 11, Simone swam in the 100-meter freestyle. Not only did she swim in it, Simone came up from behind, and, at the finish, tied for first place with Penny Oleksiak of Canada. It was a defining moment for the games and for Simone. Not only did she win, she beat the world-record holder, Cate Campbell of Australia. Simone’s tied time with Oleksiak was 52.70 seconds, which established a new world record. Always humble and appreciative of her achievements, Simone reacted to the wonderful result with a mixture of wonder and delight.

After the enormity of the achievement sank in, Simone had this to say, “The gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people who came before me and inspired me to stay in this sport, and for people who believe that they can’t do it. I hope that I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming. They might be pretty good at it.” Just as Michael Phelps was an inspiration to Simone, she will definitely be one for young men and women swimming toward their Olympic dreams.

Once again, Simone didn’t stop there. She added to her winnings with a silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle, and, in the same evening, anchored the 4 by 100-meter medley relay, taking the team to a gold-medal win.

CKW Luxe would like to congratulate Simone Manuel on being the Fireball Award honoree. As the embodiment of the award, Simone is the definition of teamwork and determination. Understanding that working hard and working together attains results, Simone has adhered to these ethics throughout her swimming career. She knew before anyone else did that she was meant to swim. That passion, along with the inspiration of those who preceded her, spurred Simone on to achieve great things for herself, her team, her country, and Olympic stars yet to come.

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