IRVINE, Calif. – Simone Manuel prefers to tear it up during her races – not before them.
But when her swimsuit tore while she was dressing for the 100-meter freestyle final on the hot and muggy first day of the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships, Manuel had to make a decision – fast.
“I definitely did freak out,” said Manuel, who went on to win the 100 Wednesday as well as the 50 free on Sunday. “It’s pretty tough, just because the suit’s sticking to you and you’re trying to be careful, but then you have to tug a little harder and then it just rips.”
While the 21-year-old can swim the 50 in under 25 seconds, it can take 25 minutes to put on a new suit.
Manuel had an old suit handy which she pulled on easily.
Then she had to follow the example of her two pet snails – more on that later – and slowww down.
“You gotta calm down a little bit or else I would have probably gone out too fast in the 100,” said Manuel, who posted her third-fastest time ever of 52.54 seconds at the meet, which is part of the Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.
In the 50, there was no holding back for the Olympic double gold and double silver medalist.
Manuel clocked 24.10 seconds, moving from 10th on this year’s world list to fourth. She also broke a pair of 10-year-old records. Manuel eclipsed the U.S. Open record (performances in the United States) of 24.13 set by rival Cate Campbell of Australia, and also surpassed the championships record of 24.25 held by Dara Torres.
“That’s cool,” said Manuel, who just finished her last year at Stanford, in which she was awarded the prestigious Honda Cup, and turned pro. “I just really wanted to put together a good 50. I wasn’t really too focused on breaking that record, but I’m pretty pleased with that time.”
And that was with a finish in which she glided to the wall. “I would say my finish probably wasn’t the best,” Manuel said.
She said in addition to technical adjustments, “there are still things that I can do rest-wise to get a little bit more power, a little bit more speed.”
Team USA has a training camp before the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Tokyo, which begin Aug. 9.
“The quick turnaround is difficult,” Manuel said, “but it is something that everybody has to deal with and I’ll just continue to manage my rest and manage stretching and getting massages and all the other things to recover so that I can be the best of the best in Tokyo.”
While she’s in Japan, she’ll steer clear of sushi. “I like my fish cooked,” Manuel said, “preferably fried.”
And wherever she goes in the world, escargot is out of the question. That was Manuel’s philosophy even before found a pair of snails while she was on a walk and took them home.
Shaka and Zulu are now Instagram stars, thanks to Manuel, who’s learned a lot about snails by Googling why they do certain things.
“They’ve kind of taught me to slow things down,” she said. “When they come out of their shells, I watch them.”
Manuel’s social media presence, which includes posts about her cooking escapades under the name “Chef Swimone,” have helped her come out of her swimming shell.
“I definitely think I had a social media presence before turning professional,” Manuel said. “But now being professional I do recognize its importance and I also want to be more engaged with my fans and people who are interested in my life. And I think it's kind of important to share the things that make me me.
“And cooking is really important to me. I'm kind of quirky and nerdy. I don't really like nature, so I'm not sure why I picked up the snails that day. But I kind of want people to be more involved and really interact with them and let them have a better understanding of who I am outside of the water.”
And that’s where it helps to channel her inner snail.
“There are a lot of things that I now have to do and a lot of obligations that I have to take care of,” Manuel said. “And just kind of reminding myself to slow down and kind of have a sense of peace is really important to me. I think that's probably going to help me have a long career in the sport of swimming with as little stress as possible.”