America stunned as swimming champ bombs out in Olympic trials

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·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
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Simone Manuel looks at her time after competing in the US Olympic Trials.
A diagnosis of over-training syndrome has cost 2016 Rio Olympic gold medallist Simone Manuel a chance to defend her 100m freestyle crown in Tokyo, after she failed to make the US team. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

American sporting fans are in shock after reigning Olympic 100m freestyle champion and two-time world champion Simone Manuel failed to qualify for the US team.

Manuel, who became the first African-American to win gold in the pool after tying with Canada's Penny Oleksiak at the Rio Games in 2016, crashed out in the semi-finals of the US Olympic trials.

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After winning world titles in 2017 and 2019, Manuel could only muster the ninth-fastest time in the semi-final, meaning she missed the final entirely.

Key Australian competitors now won't have to worry about someone who would otherwise have been one of their main competitors, but there's more to Manuel's story than meets the eye.

Manuel tearfully explained after the semi-final why she had suffered such a dramatic loss of form - she had been diagnosed with over-training syndrome back in March.

The 24-year-old said completing even the simplest physical tasks had become incredibly taxing over the last few months.

“Just walking up the stairs to the pool I was gassed,” she said. 

“There’s the physical component, but on top of that is the mental component.

“From a mental perspective it’s hard to put it into words. During this process I definitely was depressed. I isolated myself from my family.

“I had a hard time eating at times. I think the only way I got through it was talking to my loved ones.”

Simone Manuel, pictured here missing the final in her pet event.
Simone Manuel missed the final in her pet event. Image: NBC

Swimming world gutted over Simone Manuel miss

A three-week break from training after her diagnosis wasn't enough to help her shake the after-effects in time for the Olympic trials.

Nevertheless, Manuel said she was happy to have made it as far as she did.

“I know I did everything I possibly could to even be here,” she said. “And that makes me proud.

“This was the first time I showed up to a meet and before I even dove in to do a race I was proud of myself. I think that’s a big step.”

Fans and commentators were left devastated for Manuel.

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