Teenage swimmer Penny Oleksiak's star to keep rising, says coach
'She can be very trying on the staff around her. She's still a teenager and isn't afraid'
When she was nine years old Penny Oleksiak was turned down by not one but two swim clubs. But at 16, and only a few days into the Rio Olympics, she's already racked up some precious metal.
The Torontonian made her mark on the world stage this past weekend with two wins in 24 hours. She powered her way to a silver medal in the 100-metre butterfly Sunday night, just one day after winning a bronze in the women's 4x100 metre freestyle relay.
But Oleksiak's star is nowhere near done rising, according to Ryan Atkison, one of her coaches and a biomechanist working as a performance analyst for Swim Ontario.
"It was really really crazy. [I] just knew from the first couple of strokes in her race last night she was going to win a medal," he told CBC News on Monday.
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Atkison has worked with Oleksiak every day at Swimming Canada's High Performance Centre in Scarborough. His job is to study her every stroke and help her improve, but he spent much of the weekend beaming at Oleksiak's success.
It's a hunch that started long ago, despite the fact that she may not have initially impressed everyone.
"We just knew she was going to be something special right from the beginning," he says.
"[She has] incredibly long wing span, big hands, really really good technique … If you look from above, you see very little side-to-side movement of her body. She just moves through the water like a spear... She barely makes any waves."
But Atkison says it's Oleksiak's tenacity that really propels her in the water, something compounded by the fact that she is, in fact, a teenager.
"She doesn't give up when she's in a fight, something she's really honed over the past couple of years. She can be very trying on the staff around her. She's still a teenager, and isn't afraid."
Oleksiak, affectionately called "The Child" by her teammates because she's the youngest of her group at the Scarborough centre, will be back in the pool in three days for the 100-metre freestyle preliminaries, the 4x200 metre freestyle relay, the 4x100 metre medley, and hopefully the 100-metre freestyle final. According to Atkison, her competitors should watch out.
"She's a bit of a brat in the pool," he jokes.