And just like that 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak became a national hero. The swimmer tied for gold and set a new world record of 52.70 seconds in the 100-metre freestyle last night in Rio, adding a fourth medal to her Olympic haul. But the best part is that she’s still got another chance to reach the podium, with the 4×100 medley relay taking place on Sunday. If she triumphs, she’ll tie with speedskater Cindy Klassen’s five-medal run at the 2006 Olympics in Turin. For now, here’s a primer on the overnight sensation.
She’s from the 6
Penny Oleksiak was born on June 13, 2000 and grew up in Toronto’s east end. She just wrapped up grade 10 at Monarch Park Collegiate.
Sports run deep in the Oleksiak fam
Her older brother Jamie is an NHL defenseman for the Dallas Stars and her older sister Hayley rows for Northeastern University in Boston. Her dad Richard played all kinds of sports growing up, and her mother Alison was also a swimmer.
She was no water baby
Oleksiak didn’t start swimming until the age of nine and years later was turned away at several swim clubs because she struggled to swim a full length of the pool.
2015 was her breakout year
Last year the six-foot-one teenager won three individual silvers for the 50-metre butterfly, 100-metre butterfly and 100-metre freestyle at the FINA World Junior Championships, plus three golds in relay events.
She’s peaked faster than anyone could imagine
Rio was intended to give Oleksiak a taste of Olympic-level competition. One of her coaches said that he didn’t think she would start winning medals until 2020.
She’s already broken several Canadian records
The youngest Olympic champion ever from Canada, last night’s 100-metre freestyle win was also our country’s first gold of this summer’s games, making Oleksiak the first Canadian to place first in a swimming event since Mark Tewskbury’s win at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. She is also the first Canuck to have won four medals at any Summer Games.
She’s outpacing Michael Phelps (!!)
Phelps was 15 when he placed fifth at his first Olympic competition and it wasn’t until six years later that he began his medal-winning streak. It’s her first Games and she’s already got four!
She’s always been a #boss
A few years ago during a push-up competition at swim camp, she slipped and chipped her tooth, but rather than stop, she chucked the tooth shard in the pool and kept going.
She loves Drizzy like the rest of us
Oleksiak was too busy prepping for the Olympics to see Drake at OVO Fest last month and this week she couldn’t get tickets for the rapper’s sold-out October concert, so she took to Twitter:
Though Drake hasn’t responded (yet!), a Toronto radio station just tweeted this:
She’ll be the flag bearer at the closing ceremonies
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