Swimming

6-time Olympic medallist Cindy Klassen sees more podiums in Penny Oleksiak's future

Penny Oleksiak can win many more Olympic medals in the future if she stays healthy and still enjoys swimming, one of Canada's most-decorated Olympians says.

21-year-old Oleksiak became most decorated Canadian Olympian at Tokyo 2020

Canada's Penny Oleksiak poses with the bronze medal after the women's 200-metre freestyle final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Penny Oleksiak can win many more Olympic medals in the future if she stays healthy and still enjoys swimming, one of Canada's most-decorated Olympians says.

Oleksiak swam into the history books this week, taking the anchor freestyle leg in the medley relay race to win a bronze medal and become the most decorated Olympian in Canadian history.

Speed skater Cindy Klassen, who previously shared that title with cyclist-speed skater Clara Hughes, said she was happy to see the 21-year-old assume the mantle.

"It was unbelievable. [Oleksiak] is just such an outstanding athlete," Klassen said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

Oleksiak made her Olympic debut as a teenager five years ago, winning four medals in Rio before winning three more in Tokyo.

"I'm pretty excited to see how far she can take it ... she could have many more Olympics ahead of her," Klassen said.

'It's not even over yet'

Klassen said the achievements of Canada's athletes in Tokyo make her proud to be Canadian.

On Thursday alone, Damian Warner captured Canada's first Olympic decathlon title, Laurence Vincent Lapointe won a silver medal in the canoe single 200-metre race and Lauriane Genest won Canada's first track cycling medal in Tokyo.

"I just know our whole country is just rooting for them, and it's just been an exciting Olympics so far," Klassen said.

"It's not even over yet."

Klassen said seeing Canadian athletes on the Olympic podium will inspire younger generations to get involved in sports, which in turn will produce more Canadian Olympic athletes in the future.

"In a number of years, we're gonna have a bunch of young swimmers coming up saying, 'I want to be like Penny Oleksiak,"' she said.

Klassen said winning medals at the Olympics motivates other athletes who didn't make it to the Games to train hard and get ready for the next Olympics.

"When you're at the Games, once Canadians or any country, you start winning medals, I think that kind of builds up momentum."

Klassen said she was grateful for the support she received from her teammates, coaches, friends and family, and the support of all Canadians when she competed in the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver.

But this could just be the start for Oleksiak, Klassen said, adding that she's excited to see what the future holds.

"I'm sure it's an amazing feeling for her to be the most decorated Canadian Olympian and who knows how much more she can add on to that."

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