Oleksiak could make Canadian Olympic swimming history on Thursday
Penny Oleksiak just can’t stop making history.
The 16-year-old swimmer from Toronto grabbed her third medal of the Rio 2016 Games on Wednesday night, becoming the first Canadian athlete to win three Olympic medals before their 17th birthday.
She’s also now one of just six Canadian athletes (and the first since Los Angeles 1984) to step on the podium three times at the same summer Olympic Games.
And she might not be done.
Earlier on Wednesday, she finished second in her heat in the 100m freestyle semifinals with a time of 52.72 seconds—a new Canadian and world junior record—to reach Thursday’s final. She was just 0.01 seconds behind Australia’s world record holder Cate Campbell, who won the heat with a new Olympic standard of 52.71 seconds.
“I knew she was going pretty fast because I basically saw her feet the whole race,” said Oleksiak after that race. “It’s great to swim beside swimmers like her because they’ll push you.”
While Oleksiak is rightfully getting plenty of headlines for her exploits, she’s not the only 16-year-old with multiple medals for Canada at these Games.
Taylor Ruck, who’s only two weeks older than Oleksiak, has also claimed a pair of bronze medals with the 4×100 and 4×200 freestyle relay teams. Ruck, who hails from Kelowna, B.C. though lives in the United States, swam a strong second leg in Wednesday night’s race to help Canada reach the podium.
“After the first leg, I saw that I was catching up to the people beside me,” said Ruck. “That definitely gave me confidence going into the last hundred, just going as hard as I could.”
“There’s a lot of emotion,” said Savard. “If someone had told me that this would happen a few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed them.”
For MacLean, who was part of the Canadian team that finished fourth in this event at London 2012, the end result was especially satisfying.
“No one really expected us to medal, but we all believed it was possible,” she said. “We were in the ready room saying, ‘Who wants to get an Olympic medal tonight?’, and all of us were obviously really on board about that.”
Earlier in the evening, Santo Condorelli fell agonizingly short of the podium in the men’s 100m freestyle final, coming in fourth place with a time of 47.88 seconds, just 0.03 seconds behind bronze medal winner Nathan Adrian of the USA.
But things turned around quickly, with Kierra Smith advancing in the women’s 200m breaststroke semifinal. Then came the 4x200m relay team to cap another fantastic day in the pool for Swimming Canada.
The four medals in swimming so far in Rio are the most for Canada in a single Games since 1984. But with Oleksiak and Smith both set to race in finals on Thursday, there could be even more memorable moments yet to come.