Penny Oleksiak 'only going to grow stronger' after Rio gold: sports historian
There are several reasons why 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak can be called a history-making Canadian athlete – her age being just one of them, according to a Canadian Olympic historian.
Oleksiak became the most decorated Canadian athlete of any Summer Olympics on Thursday, winning her fourth medal and first-ever gold as she stormed the women’s 100-metre freestyle and set an Olympic record as she tied fellow gold medallist Simone Manuel of the United States. Oleksiak had already won one silver and two bronze medals.
“It was an incredible performance for her at these Olympic Games,” Olympic historian Kevin Wamsley told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “And, as she said, just beyond her wildest dreams.”
The Toronto teen’s success is significant not only because of her age, Wamsley said, but also her level of experience compared to her competitors.
“So we know that a swimmer like Michael Phelps has been at multiple Olympic Games. He’s almost twice as old, and you would expect a little more from him. But who could’ve expected this kind of performance from a young athlete?” he said.
“She’s only going to grow stronger and more experienced in international competitions.”
Canadian women have dominated the podium in Rio de Janeiro. All of Canada’s 11 medals won so far have been won by women.
That female domination, led by Oleksiak, marks a major shift from the London 2012 Olympics, when men and women more or less shared the medal count equally, Wamsley said.
He added that the womens’ success at these Games underscores Canada's committment to fostering talented female athletes.
“I think, is a measure of how sport for women is valued in Canada compared to some of the nations who are a little further behind in women’s participation,” he said.
Canada’s biggest hope for a men’s Olympic medal likely rests on the shoulders of Andre De Grasse, who is set to race at 100-metre dash finals on Sunday.