Manuel, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist and national record holder in the 50 and 100 freestyle, was asked if she felt she was ready for a fast time at the world championships.
"Well, I haven't tapered yet,'' she said with a laugh. "But I think the competition in South Korea will help me swim fast.''
Last July Manuel made the decision to turn professional to give herself two years to prepare for the 2020 Olympics. There was also a question of how much more she could accomplish as a Stanford swimmer. She had already become a six-time NCAA champion and set school records in the 50, 100 and 200 free as well as breaking the NCAA and American record in the 100 free.
She looks back on her time at Stanford fondly, about going to Stanford football games.
"I enjoyed them when we won,'' she said.
So now she's a 22-year-old dealing with adult life, such as having noisy upstairs neighbors at her Mountain View apartment complex.
"At Stanford, four years of student housing, was like living in a little bubble,'' Manuel said, "I love California, but the cost of living ... Coming from Texas and being used to going to a restaurant and spending $12. Coming here it's $30.''
In her first year as a professional she no longer finds her training time constrained by classwork. But it's been a big adjustment.
"The first year has been bittersweet,'' she said. "I've learned so much about myself in good ways and not-so-good ways. I'm very impatient. I've got to learn to slow things down and not get so wrapped up in a fast-paced lifestyle.''
Manuel's accomplishments take on additional meaning due to the continued infrequency of African-American athletes in the world of swimming. She became the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event when she tied for first place with Penny Oleksiak of Canada in the 100 free at the Rio Olympics, setting an Olympic record of 52.70 in the process.
"Yes, I have,'' she answered when asked if she had received much feedback in the form of interest from the black community. "I hear from a lot of people on social media, people telling me they've put their children in swim programs after watching my performance in Rio. I continue to be grateful to be in this position. Obviously there's still a ways to go.''
She's also become a big advocate of water safety training to prevent children of all races from drowning.
"It's nice if going 52 seconds is going to get people in the water,'' she said. "Save their lives, challenge stereotypes, think outside the box.''
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