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Simone Manuel's night stands alone in the Rio Olympic Games

The story of how a Stanford star took home an unexpected gold in Brazil

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night in Rio belonged to Simone. And no, not the all-around world champion gymnast Biles.

Stanford swimmer Simone Manuel shared the gold medal with sixteen-year old Canadian Penny Oleksiak in a 100-meter freestyle final that shocked the swimming world.

Manuel edged out Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell, the perceived favorites, to become the first African-American woman to medal, much less win gold, in an individual swimming event.

The Campbells raced out ahead of the pack in the first length, but both faded late in the race, allowing Manuel, the Rio roommate of fellow Cardinal swimming superwoman Katie Ledecky, to touch the wall ahead of them.

The best part was, Manuel didn't even know she'd won gold until she pulled her swim cap off her head and turned to look at the finishing order on the scoreboard. The look on her face was priceless as she realized she had set a new Olympic record with a final finishing time of 52.71 seconds.

This moment was meant to be for the 20-year old from Sugar Land, Texas.

Having fallen in love with swimming from the moment she touched the water, Manuel was a natural in the pool. In 2012, she attended the US Swimming Olympic Trials and came away inspired by the likes of Ledecky and others. Four years later, her 2016 trials performance in Omaha was enough to send her to Rio.

Manuel opened her international swimming career in Brazil by helping Lia Neal, Ledecky, and captain Allison Schmitt take the silver medal in the women's 4x100 freestyle relay.

Not only was this big for Stanford swimming, but Manuel showed a fractured world that the color of one's skin is a non-issue in the pool. During her emotional post-race interview, NBC's Michelle Tafoya asked Manuel about her accomplishment. And Simone could not have responded any better.

"This medal is not just for me," Manuel said, fighting back tears. "It's for a whole bunch of people that came before me and have been an inspiration to me—Maritza [McClendon], Cullen [Jones]—and it's for all the people after me who believe they can't do it, and I just want to be an inspiration to others that you can do it."

As she headed for a cool down swim, Neal, fellow teammate Maya DiRado, and Cardinal head swimming coach Greg Meehan embraced her in an emotional group hug.

The Stanford women have been on a tear in Rio, collecting a myriad of medals at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. And they're not done yet.

Ledecky could win the 800-meter freestyle event Friday, having already set an Olympic record in her semifinal heat. Manuel qualified for the 50-meter freestyle sprint and will swim in the semifinals also on Friday around 9 p.m.

No matter the results after the closing ceremonies, the entire world should take notice that Manuel and the Stanford women will have a reserved spot on the medal stand at the pool in the next four, eight and even 12 years.