One race, two winners, two records!

American Simone Manuel and Canadian Penny Oleksiak use the 100m freestyle to make history in many ways
Rio Olympics Swimming Oleksiak Gold medal winners United States' Simone Manuel, left, and Canada's Penny Oleksiak pose with their medal after the medal ceremony for the women's 100-metre freestyle final during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)


When you watch the Olympics, it's not that uncommon to see a record broken. A new fastest time. A youngest ever winner. Maybe even a first medal in an event for a country. Or, if your name is Michael Phelps, it's just business as usual as you hoard every last gold medal in sight like a squirrel in October.

But during last night's women's 100m freestyle swim in Rio, we got to witness a race for the ages. As well as a race that signals a brand new age in the sport. World, say hello to your new gold medallists (yes, plural) in the 100m freestyle: Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel.

Double gold

What was most amazing about the pair's winning race? Where do we begin?

Was it the fact that they beat current world record holder Australian swimmer Cate Campbell, a swimmer who was confidently leading for over half the race?

Was it the fact that in a sport measured in 100ths of a second, Manuel and Oleksiak touched the end of the pool at the exact same moment?

Or perhaps it was the fact that their joint time of 52.70 is a new Olympic record?

These facts are all quite remarkable in their own right. But it's safe to say that both swimmers will be most remembered for the way they individually claimed new ground in the sport.

First African-American gold medallist

In the case of the 20 year-old Houston, Texas native Manuel, she is the first black swimmer to win individual Olympic gold. Think about that one for a moment. The Olympics are full of great black champions from around the world. But in the case of the sport of swimming, historians note that it carries the scars of segregation more than sports like running and basketball. (Segregation was the period in American history where black people were kept separated and not allowed to use the same facilities as white people.) Even after segregation ended in the late 1960s, swimming remained a very white sport. Manuel's win suggests that that time may finally be coming to an end. She definitely understood that it was a big deal.

"I hope that I can be an inspiration to others, so this medal is for the people who come behind me and get into the sport and hopefully find love and drive to get to this point," she said after her win.

Turning Pennies into gold

As for Oleksiak, this gold medal meant that after only 6 days as an Olympian, the 16 year-old Torontonian has won more medals at a single Games than any Canadian in history. Her 4 medals also include a silver in the 200m butterfly and double bronze in freestyle relays. She is also the first person born in the 21st century to win an Olympic gold in any sport. What began on the weekend as a feel-good Canadian story of a surprising teenager winning bronze and silver in two days has new evolved into the tale of a future world superstar. Oleksiak is already 6'1", but hasn't come close to reaching her peak years.

In last night's race, she was competing against fully grown women who are stronger and more experienced. At the "turn" (which is halfway through a 100m race), Oleksiak was seventh of eight swimmers. Then with only about 20m to go, she turned on the jets. It was an incredible example of natural ability. If she's this good now, Canada could have their own Katie Ledecky on their hands in the future.


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