How "Black Girl Magic" Is Taking Over the Olympics

To the black women at the Olympics: it's incredible to watch you shine.

On Thursday night, the US's Simone Manuel became the first black woman in Olympic history to win individual gold in swimming. The 20-year-old Stanford student tied with Canada's Penny Oleksiak to take home the top prize during the women's 100-meter freestyle competition, and the significance of the moment was palpable immediately after she won.

"This medal is not just for me, it's for a whole bunch of people who came before me and have been an inspiration to me," she said with tears coming down her face in a postrace interview, acknowledging previous black swimmers like Maritza Correia Cullen Jones who broke barriers. "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."

Manuel also spoke out about recent police brutality against people of color, saying her win was significant "especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory."

Indeed, her win changes the narrative of black people in this country. It represents what they can and should be able to accomplish, especially in areas where they've been traditionally shunned. Manuel sits on the US team with black swimmer Lia Neal — it's the first time in history that two black women are on the same American swim team. As the BBC points out, Manuel's win is powerful because black people were shut out of swimming pools for generations because white people didn't want them around.

It's similarly triumphant when black women win medals in gymnastics, a sport historically dominated by white athletes. Not too long ago, in 2012, Gabby Douglas became the first black US gymnast and the first female gymnast of color from any nationality to win an individual gold medal. Even during the present Games, she is ridiculed for her natural hair, but haters took a back seat when she stood up on the podium with her team after winning gold alongside another powerhouse: 19-year-old Simone Biles.

What's incredible about Biles is not just that she's one of the few black gymnasts to compete but that she's absolutely crushing it. She took gold in the individual all-around competition by an insane 2.1-point margin, which — according to The Wall Street Journalshattered every Olympic record from at least the last half-century.

Even when talk of her being the greatest female gymnast of all time turns sour because she's compared to other male athletes, the gymnast has the perfect response: "I'm not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps," she said in an interview with Sporting News. "I'm the first Simone Biles."

Serena Williams summed up the importance of these women's accomplishments with an Instagram photo that's received hundreds of comments about black girl magic, a reference to the movement celebrating the greatness of black women.

So amazing 😍🇺🇸 #simonemanuel #simonebiles

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

We have yet to see what other dynamite black female athletes will accomplish during this Olympic Games, like Claressa Shields in boxing or Morolake Akinosun in track and field or Jenny Arthur in weightlifting or Tina Charles in basketball.

For swimmer Manuel, being one of few US Olympic black female swimmers comes with its pressures. "Coming into the race I tried to take weight of the black community off my shoulders," she said, according to USA Today. "It's something I carry with me. I want to be an inspiration, but I would like there to be a day when it is not 'Simone the black swimmer.' The title of black swimmer suggests that I am not supposed to win golds or break records, but that's not true because I train hard and want to win just like everyone else."

She's right. Being an accomplished black athlete — and a female one at that — shouldn't be an anomaly. But Manuel and her fellow badass Olympians are exactly what we need to accomplish that reality. Until it happens, we should celebrate their achievements as loud and as often as we can.