Penny Oleksiak to carry flag for Canada at Rio closing ceremony
Toronto swimmer, 16, won 4 medals at 2016 Olympics
By Jonathan Rumley, CBC Sports
The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) has chosen Penny Oleksiak to be the country's flag-bearer at the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games.
"I'm super honoured to carry the flag for Canada," Oleksiak said at a Sunday news conference. With the honour, she becomes Canada's youngest flag-bearer in Olympic history.
The 16-year-old swimmer from Toronto was a breakout performer for Canada at the Summer Games in Brazil after winning four medals in the pool, including gold, silver, and two bronze medals.
"This entire experience is a dream come true," she said. "I never expected any of this, and now I've been given this honour of carrying the Canadian flag into the closing ceremony.
"I've never been more proud to be a Canadian."
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Oleksiak became Canada's most decorated swimmer at a single Games after her performance in Rio de Janeiro. She will carry the country's flag into the Olympic Stadium in Brazil during the closing ceremony on Sunday evening.
BREAKING | <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamCanada">@TeamCanada</a> announces Penny Oleksiak as <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ClosingCeremony?src=hash">#ClosingCeremony</a> flag-bearer. <a href="https://t.co/JAoL0ve2RK">https://t.co/JAoL0ve2RK</a> <a href="https://t.co/p2vIN9YeNl">https://t.co/p2vIN9YeNl</a>—@CBCOlympics
The six-foot, one-inch tall athlete will lead a Canadian contingent that appears on pace to surpass its goal in Rio of finishing in the top 12 in the overall medal count.
Canada finished the Games with 22 medals — four better than the 18 won in London four years ago — good for 10th in the medal standings.
"I'm just going to be really happy and excited to carry this flag tonight," she said. "It's been pretty fun this last week."
Oleksiak seemingly came out of nowhere to lead Canada's swim team to six medals in Rio. The COC's chef de mission, Curt Harnett, described the teenage swimmer as "fearless" and "focused."
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CAN?src=hash">#CAN</a> Penny Oleksiak & her family have shared some big moments! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rio2016?src=hash">#Rio2016</a> <a href="https://t.co/JAoL0ve2RK">https://t.co/JAoL0ve2RK</a> <a href="https://t.co/KlpFwcPasF">https://t.co/KlpFwcPasF</a>—@CBCOlympics
Oleksiak acknowledged she has spoken to young, aspiring athletes since her success in Rio.
"Just being able to be a role model like that is a pretty great feeling."
The swimming star credits her family for keeping her grounded after her tremendous success at the 2016 Summer Games. It's not the first time an Oleksiak has reached great heights in the sporting world — her 23-year-old brother Jamie Oleksiak was drafted into the National Hockey League by the Dallas Stars.
"My family, they show me no mercy," the 16-year-old said. "They're just keeping everything the same."
Soccer star Christine Sinclair carried the flag into the closing at the London Olympics four years ago after leading Canada to a bronze medal. Gold-medal winning trampolinist Rosie MacLennan was the flag-bearer at the opening ceremony two weeks ago.
Beyond proud of TO's <a href="https://twitter.com/OleksiakPenny">@OleksiakPenny</a> for being chosen as <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CAN?src=hash">#CAN</a> flag-bearer at <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rio2016?src=hash">#Rio2016</a>. Looking forward to see what your future has in store.—@JohnTory
COC president Tricia Smith praised Canadian athletes in Rio, calling it the "greatest Games ever."
"Our athletes have shown again they have the talent and grit to take on the best in the world," she said. "Our athletes have delivered."
With youthful stars such as Oleksiak and 21-year-old Andre De Grasse making an impact on the world's biggest stage, the COC president was confident in Canada moving forward.
Penny Oleksiak is Canada's flag bearer for closing ceremonies. Easy choice, she won 4 swim medals, which ranks 8th among all countries.—@DavidAmber
With files from The Canadian Press
With files from The Canadian Press