Penny Oleksiak wins Canada's first gold in Rio
Canada's Penny Oleksiak holds up her gold medal after her first-place finish in the women's 100m freestyle finals during the Rio 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, August 11, 2016 10:39PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 12, 2016 1:16PM EDT
RIO DE JANEIRO -- Rio has been a fistful of firsts for Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak, but the showstopper was winning Canada's first gold medal of the 2016 Summer Olympics on Thursday.
The 16-year-old from Toronto blitzed the back half of the women's 100-metre freestyle to share the gold and an Olympic record of 52.70 seconds with Simone Manuel of the United States.
Oleksiak became the first Canadian to win four medals at a single Summer Games after a butterfly silver and a pair of bronze in the freestyle relays.
"It means, so, so much to me just because I really want to inspire kids my age or even younger than me to do whatever they want to do," Oleksiak said. "To be here medalling and getting gold is an incredible feeling."
Seventh at the turn, Oleksiak turned on what is now her signature close and hunted down the Australian sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell running first and second.
The Canadian's last 50 metres was almost half a second faster than her competitors.
"At the turn I kind of saw I was pretty far behind," Oleksiak said. "I turned after basically everyone. I tried to bring it home as fast as I could."
Oleksiak stared at the wall for several seconds before turning around to face the scoreboard.
The teenager's eyes turned into saucers and her face lit up a the sight of her name at its top alongside Manuel's.
"I didn't think that I could have won gold before the meet at all and I guess to turn around and see you got an Olympic record and just won gold with Simone is an amazing feeling," she said.
Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden earned bronze in 52.99 seconds.
After the medal ceremony - U.S. anthem first followed by Canada's - Oleksiak hugged her tearful sister Hayley, brother Jamie and her parents Alison and Richard.
"My sister was bawling her eyes out. That was pretty great," Oleksiak said. "I love the fact that I've made my family super-proud of me. It's always something I want to do."
Manuel, 20, became the first African-American woman to win an individual swimming medal at the Olympics.
"I just met Penny today, but she's awesome," Manuel said. "To have the two young ones win the sprint means a lot for swimming."
Oleksiak is the first Canadian woman to win an Olympic medal of any colour in the 100-metre freestyle, which has been in the Summer Games since 1912. She's also the first Olympic gold medallist born in this millennium.
Another first is becoming the first Canadian to win three or more medals before turning 17.
She's also not done in Rio as the six-foot-two sensation will likely race either the butterfly or freestyle leg of the women's individual medley relay Saturday.
Victor Davis and Anne Ottenbrite (1984), Elaine Tanner (1968), runners Phil Edwards and Alex Wilson (1932) each won three medals for Canada at a Summer Games.
The Canadian team has won five medals in the pool - one more than the last four Summer Games combined - and swam in 13 finals with two days of racing to go.
Hilary Caldwell of White Rock, B.C., will swim Canada's 14th final Friday. She cruised to first in her 200-metre backstroke final and posted the second-fastest qualifying time behind Hungary's Katinka Hosszu.
"I was talking to Kylie the other night saying 'all you guys on the podium, it makes it that much more attainable and it normalizes something that is such an amazing feat, such an amazing accomplishment,"' Caldwell said.
"We've had all these Canadian girls on the podium, so it's like 'OK, if they can do it, I can to it."'
Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., placed seventh in the women's 200-metre breaststroke.
Santo Condorelli of Kenora, Ont., was 12th in both the 50-metre freestyle and 100-metre butterfly semifinals and did not advance.
Dominique Bouchard of North Bay, Ont., was ninth in the women's backstroke and did not get another swim.