With 21-year-old Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak on the verge of being the most decorated Olympian in this country’s history, her family will be cheering from their Toronto home.
“It’s been fun. I would say that we’re probably more stressed than Penny is,” Alison Oleksiak, Penny’s mother, told Global News while laughing.
“I think, you know, being the spectator is a little bit of a different perspective I guess.”
Hayley Oleksiak, Penny’s sister, said whenever she has spoken with her in recent days, she’s been “so excited and driven.”
“If you talk to her it’s like, ‘I’m going to get the next thing,'” she said.
“This is probably the most driven and positive she’s sounded in a long time.”
Penny picked up two medals at the Tokyo Olympics so far — a silver and a bronze — bringing her career total to six.
Wednesday’s bronze medal win made her the most decorated Canadian summer Olympic athlete and also makes her tied with the most decorated Canadian athletes in any Olympics, joining speed skater Cindy Klassen and cyclist and speed skater Clara Hughes in the record books.
Penny will have the chance to become the most decorated Canadian Olympian of all time just before 10 p.m. ET on Thursday when she swims in the 100-metre freestyle final.
Back in Toronto, the Oleksiak family said they have developed a routine when watching Penny compete in Tokyo.
“My mom is very superstitious so she makes us all come to the same spot now every day because after her first race went well, and … my mom’s insisted that we all come to the same spot,” Hayley said.
Family members noted Penny has drawn inspiration from American swimmer Michael Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympian of all time.
They said she speaks with him on a regular basis and that he has reassured her she doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, emphasizing that she should compete for herself.
“I think for her she struggled a little bit early on because I think she–I mean she was so young and she didn’t want to let anybody down and she took a lot of that on herself,” Alison said.
“I think her hearing that from Michael Phelps took on a whole different perspective.”
When Penny competed in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro she was just 16 years old. She ultimately won four medals.
Alison said Penny now enjoys sharing her experiences with some of the younger athletes she competes with.
She said Penny and other members of the Canadian Olympic team are proud of the way they have performed thus far in Tokyo.
Alison said she is also happy to see the positive impact that Penny’s achievements are having on young female Canadians.
“As a mom and as a woman … just seeing girls believe that this is something that they can do, it’s just so much of our experience in sports is major league sports, which is so male-dominated, and yet there’s just such incredible achievements that the women can make,” Alison said.
— With files from Morganne Campbell and Sean Boynton