Olympic history-maker Simone Manuel got her start in Sharpstown

Simone Manuel didn't just win Olympic gold Thursday night. At 20 years old, she wrote history as the first African American woman to medal in an individual Olympic swim event.

But if you rewind, you'd find Manuel in the Houston Swim Club's Guppy program.

"The guppy program is a program for students ages 2.5 to 4.11," said instructor Jordan Ramirez. "It's really good foundation for kids who don't know how to swim. We work on breath control, body control, and getting them comfortable in the water."

Program management said Manuel's parents enrolled her at age 4 in the two-week course, which graduates into monthly classes. FOX 26 visited the program Friday night to speak with students who also got their start in the Guppy course.

"My coaches they teach me a lot," said 8-year old Vedente, who's taken classes at Houston Swim Club for six years. "You have to graduate from level to level and learn new strokes at every level."

When asked whether she might be the next Simone, student Krystal told FOX 26, "maybe, if I learn to do my breast stroke and freestyle. I've been having trouble breathing but maybe I can do it."

"Regardless of how far they go, it's a great thing to learn and you can advance it to the best of your ability," said Chandra Srinivasan, father of Vedente.

The program offers team and competitive swimming, but instructors say they focus on each student individually.

"Even though there's a curriculum we want them to follow, we teach to what we think is appropriate for that child," explained Ramirez.

Most parents who spoke to FOX 26 said they want the same thing Simone Manuel's parents did when they dropped her in this very pool - for their their children to learn a skill to enjoy for a lifetime.

"It's something any child should consider taking up. I'm a physician myself and a cardiologist, and it's a good thing that if they can learn it early in life. It's going to be a big plus, and this is right here in Houston," said Srinivasan.