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US Olympic Swimming Trials 2021: Simone Manuel's battle with Overtraining Syndrome

Simone Manuel was disagnosed with overtraining syndrome in April
Simone Manuel was disagnosed with overtraining syndrome in April

Simone Manuel is out of the fray to defend her 100m freestyle Olympic title after crashing out of the semifinals of the US Olympic Swimming Trials 2021. She finished 9th in the semifinals and missed the cut for the final by 0.02 seconds.

The 24-year-old revealed that she was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome(OTS) in March and took a break for 3 weeks from the sport. Simone Manuel has also had to deal with insomnia, anxiety and depression.

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Post her exit in the semifinals, Simone Manuel addressed the press.

“I think we saw what happened, I finished 9th. I haven’t quite processed it completely, but the one thing I have processed is that I am proud of myself, and I did everything I possibly could have done to set myself up to be my very best at this meet, and that 54 — I don’t even know what the time was, was as best as I could be today and in this moment."

She sounded sad at failing to make the cut but refused to beat herself up over the result.

"That’s a tough pill to swallow, but I think what makes it easier to swallow is I simply — I really went out there, and I did my best,” she said.

What is overtraining syndrome?

Simone Manuel won the 100 M freestyle at the Rio Olympic
Simone Manuel won the 100 M freestyle at the Rio Olympic

Overtraining syndrome occurs in elite athletes when you exercise too often without giving your body enough time to recover. These athletes frequently practise beyond their bodies' ability to heal, especially when preparing for a competition or sporting event.

2021 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming - Day 5
2021 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming - Day 5

There are psychological symptoms like unfavorable mood changes as well as physical symptoms like increased heart rate. Manuel revealed how she felt about it.

“It started a little bit in January. I think it was something that I didn’t quite notice until my body like completely crashed,” she said. "The first sign was the increased heart rate at rest," she added.

She went on to explain how it affected her mentally as well. Manuel said:

"During this process I definitely was depressed. I isolated myself from my family. My mom would ask me questions on the phone and I would snap at her in ways I typically wouldn't. I had a hard time eating at times. I think the only way I got through it was talking to my loved ones and sports psychologist."

Can Simone Manuel still qualify for the Tokyo Olympics?

Simone Manuel is in the fray to qualify for the Olympics via the 50 M freestyle category. The Texas-born swimmer won the silver medal in this event at the Rio Olympics. She has promised to give her best again to qualify for Tokyo. Manuel holds the national record in this category.

Not only a sporting icon but a cultural icon

The ‘sprint queen’ of American swimming added that the social issues and the pandemic might have aided the obstacles that came along her way.

"Being a black person in America played a part in it. Last year was brutal. It's not something I can ignore and it was just another factor that can influence you mentally in a draining way," she said.

Five years ago, Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to clinch a gold medal in an individual event. Simone Manuel has been a cultural icon and a person to look up to for many young swimmers. She has co-founded a media and commerce company- TOGETHXR- for women empowerment.

Over the years, Simone Manuel has tackled various social issues and we believe the Overtraining syndrome is nothing but just another demon which she will beat eventually.

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Edited by Diptanil Roy
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