Penny Oleksiak has carved a golden place in Canadian sporting history, winning her fourth swimming medal at the Rio Summer Olympics – the most medals claimed by a Canadian athlete at one Summer Games.
The 16-year-old from Toronto claimed the gold medal in the 100m freestyle in a time of 52.70 seconds Thursday night, tying American Simone Manuel in an Olympic record time.
The tie means Oleksiak and Manuel each won gold medals, and no silver was awarded. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won the bronze in a time of 52.99.
The medal gives Oleksiak one gold, one silver and two bronze medals, in a span of six days.
Oleskiak, who is competing in her first Summer Games, kicked off the Rio Olympics by winning bronze as the anchor of the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay on Saturday, and then won silver in the 100-metre butterfly on Sunday. She later anchored the 4×200 freestyle relay team to a bronze on Wednesday night.
Five other Canadians have won three medals at a single Summer Olympics, and much of that prowess has come from the pool.
Swimmers Victor Davis (one gold and two silvers in Los Angeles, 1984); Anne Ottenbrite (gold, silver and bronze, Los Angeles, 1984); and Elaine Tanner (two silvers and a bronze, Mexico City, 1968) all won three at one Summer Games.
Sprinter Alex Wilson claimed three medals in Los Angeles in 1932 (one silver and two bronzes), while middle-distance runner Phil Edwards walked away with three bronze medals at those same Olympics.
With four medals in total, Oleksiak is tied with Davis as Canada’s most decorated Olympic swimmer. Davis won a fourth medal, a silver, in 1988 in Seoul.
The Canadian record for most hardware won in a single Olympics is held by speed skater Cindy Klassen, who ascended the podium five times at the 2006 Turin Winter Games.
Oleksiak’s remarkable ascent to the top of the Canadian swimming world has been nothing short of stunning. After winning her first medal in Rio de Janeiro, Oleksiak said she never expected to make the podium at these Olympics and was just aiming to make the team at Canadian trials.
Before joining the Olympic team this year, Oleksiak was a star in the junior ranks, and holds several Canadian junior records.
Her teammates and coaches describe her as a unique talent. Still in high school, Oleksiak has shown remarkable poise as an Olympic rookie competing against the world’s best. Though she admitted she was nervous before her silver-medal swim on Sunday, and said her hands were shaking in her room before leaving for the pool, Oleksiak gathered herself to swim one of the best races of her life that day. Standing slightly taller than 6-foot-1 – and still growing – her height and long reach make her an ideal competitive swimmer.
Gary Nolden, Oleksiak’s first swimming coach in Toronto from age 9 to 13, said Oleksiak always stood out as a young swimmer, and was constantly looking to outdo older kids in the program.
“If you asked me if this was possible I would have said categorically ‘yes,’ ” Nolden told The Globe and Mail this week. “We are so proud of her.”
With several medals already around her neck, Oleksiak has the potential to become one of the greats of the sport, Nolden said. He believes Oleksiak can win multiple medals at more than one Olympics, as only a few swimmers have done, most notably U.S. star Michael Phelps.
“How far can Penny go? Really, I think Penny could be the next superstar. Penny could be the next Michael Phelps,” Nolden said. “She will be phenomenal.”
Rio de Janeiro — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016 10:32PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Aug. 12, 2016 6:37AM EDT