As It Happens

'She just loves the sport so much' Penny Oleksiak's sister on the gold medal swim

Swimmer Penny Oleksiak is the first Canadian ever to win four medals at the summer Olympics. As it Happens speaks with Oleksiak's sister, Hayley, after Thursday night's gold medal win.
Canada's Penny Oleksiak reacts to her gold medal finish in the women's 100m freestyle finals in Rio on Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

At 16-years-old, she's already making history — over and over again.

On Thursday night, Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak tied for gold in the 100-metre freestyle — setting an Olympic record along the way. She's the first Canadian ever to win four medals at the Summer Games.

"I'm just really excited for her. I think we're all in a little bit of shock over it," sister Hayley Oleksiak tells As it Happens guest host Laura Lynch.

"I think I raced with her when she was ten once . . . I think I was halfway down the pool and she was coming back. I realized that maybe she was more of a swimmer than I will ever be." 

It didn't look like Oleksiak was going to win midway through the race. At the turn, she was in seventh place. Then, Oleksiak was able to push past her competitors and win gold. She tied with American swimmer Simone Manuel.

Joint Gold medalists Simone Manuel of USA, left, and Penny Oleksiak of Canada, right, after the medal ceremony for the women's 100m Freestyle Final race. (Patrick B. Kraemer/EPA)
"She was giving us a little bit of a heart attack in the first [50 metres] and then I think we put trust in her that she knew how to . . . move through those people," says Hayley Oleksiak. 

After finishing the race, it took Oleksiak a while to turn around and look at the scoreboard.

"I feel like she just loves the sport so much and she's just trying to take it all in and have a moment to herself before seeing what the results are," explains her sister. "I think she's more focused on her development and I think what she's thinking about is, 'How does the race feel for me?'"

Penny Oleksiak, right, set off an online firestorm with her gold-medal performance Thursday night. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)
Oleksiak comes from an athletic family. Her sister, Hayley, is a rower at Northeastern University. Her brother, Jamie, is a hockey player with the Dallas Stars. Unsurprisingly, Hayley Oleksiak says the family can be quite competitive.

"I think it's just how we are. Sometimes, it's not even just about being competitive against other people. I think it's competitive about our own times," she says. "Also, being able to just come home and be normal and talk about non-athletic things is also great. I think having that contrast is kind of what helps us all." 


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