59ºF

Simone Manuel's first swimming coach: She was a natural

photo

HOUSTON – The first swim teacher of Simone Manuel said the Olympic gold medalist was a natural from a young age.

Manuel, who this week became the first African-American woman to win gold in an individual swimming event, started swimming at 4 years old at the Houston Swim Club’s Sharpstown location.

“She was in my 'guppy' class,” Tracy Laman, who runs the club with her family, said.

She said Manuel was a natural at the sport.

“About the fifth day of class I had her sitting on my lap and I was already working with her on her arms,” Laman said. “Her mom thought she was doing something different because she was in trouble and I told her, ‘No, she’s doing great. She’s just a natural!’”

Through the years, Laman continued to follow Manuel’s progress, even catching up with her before the games in Rio.

[Watch: Simone Manuel's Houston roots]

“I got to watch her at the trials in Omaha, so I knew she was going to do great things,” Laman said. “It was fun to watch all of that hard work and dedication come to fruition.”

The Olympian is now a source of pride for the Houston Swim Club.

“It’s fun to teach at the Houston Swim Club because I can say this is where Simone got her start,” Laman said. “I was teaching a little girl the other day and I told her Simone started her swim lessons here and she got this wide-eyed look on (her) face.”

Laman said she is going to try to get Manuel to visit the club over Thanksgiving break.