Canadian Olympic champion Penny Oleksiak is joining an exclusive club in Guelph by receiving the National Leadership Award from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School.
Since 1991, the high school has recognized great Canadians with the honour. The list includes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gord Downie and former senator and Canadian Forces general, Romeo Dallaire.
“Just knowing the fact that I know those people and I know that they are such amazing people, and just to be up there honoured with them is so amazing and such an honour for me,” Oleksiak told CJOY News following the ceremony in the school’s gymnasium Tuesday morning.
After receiving the award, Oleksiak spoke to students about her time at the 2016 Summer Games and told them to follow their dreams.
“Don’t listen to the people that tell you no,” she said. “People are going to tell that you’re too small, too slow, too young, too old, and you honestly can’t listen to that stuff because it’s going to get you nowhere in life.”
“Just remember that there is no better time than right now to act on your dreams and do what you believe in.”
The ceremony was attended by local politicians and dignitaries, including Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie, MP Lloyd Longfield, MPP Liz Sandals and police chief Jeff DeRuyter.
The 17-year-old won four Olympic medals last summer in Rio, including gold in the 100-metre freestyle. She became the first Canadian to win four medals in the same Summer Games and the country’s youngest Olympic champion.
Up next for Oleksiak is the 2018 Commonwealth Games next April in Australia.