August 8, 2016 8:59 pm
Updated: August 9, 2016 8:01 am

Rio 2016: Canada’s newest swimming phenom Penny Oleksiak not your typical teenager

WATCH ABOVE: Penny Oleksiak wins two medals in Olympic swimming debut, are there more to come? Jeff Semple reports.


Canadians should get used to hearing the name Penny Oleksiak.

In her Olympic debut on August 6, the 16-year-old from Toronto anchored the women’s freestyle team to a bronze medal. A mere 24 hours later, in the 100-metre butterfly, she powered her way to a new Canadian record and a silver medal.

WATCH: What makes Rio medallist Penny Oleksiak so good?

Before last weekend, Canada had not won a medal in women’s swimming in 20 years. Now this teenager from Toronto has two.

So what’s it like to reach your Olympic dream, before reaching Grade 11?

“I look at the medals a lot, and I feel like they’re not real,” Oleksiak said with a laugh.

READ MORE: Canadian Penny Oleksiak takes silver in the 100m butterfly

She didn’t even expect to make Canada’s team. Her dream was to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. She never imagined those dreams would come true so soon.

“It’s just kind of a weird, unreal experience I guess,” she said.

And, like a typical teenager, she seems particularly preoccupied with the response on her various social media platforms.

WATCH: 16-year-old Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak making waves in Rio

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“My phone is just blowing up with a bunch of Facebook messages, Twitter, Snapchat, everything. It’s a little overwhelming. Sometimes the apps will crash and stuff. But it’s pretty fun too.”

If Oleksiak seems unusually poised and calm, her parents are not. Her mother Allison could be seen during the Olympic coverage jumping up and down in the stands. “I look like I’m kicking and swimming in the stands,” Allison joked. “But I’m as calm as I can be.”

And this family is built to handle pressure

Oleksiak’s older sister is an NCAA rower and her brother happens to be a defenceman with the Dallas Stars in the NHL. But, Jamie Oleksiak said these days people refer to him as “Penny’s brother.”

“It’s just been fantastic. I’ve been a super fan this whole time. Like I said, we’re so proud of you her. She’s handled herself so well,” the NHLer said.

“I’ve always looked up to (my brother),” Oleksiak said. “Just because he’s always been such an amazing athlete. Both my brother and my sister have helped me get here, helped me keep my nerves down and everything.”

And Oleksiak will need to keep that composure this week with two more events still to come. The new face of Canadian swimming is just getting started.

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