Canada's Penny Oleksiak brushes off latest 4th-place finish, still looking to set medal record

Penny Oleksiak on Friday just missed the podium in the women’s 100-metre freestyle final, finishing fourth in a personal-best time of 52.59 seconds.

Toronto swimmer has one more race to try to win her 7th medal

A medal in the 100-metre freestyle would have been Penny Oleksiak's seventh overall at the Olympics and would have made her Canada's most-decorated Olympian. (Reuters)

Five years ago at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Penny Oleksiak won gold in the women's 100-metre freestyle with a time of 52.70 seconds. 

In Tokyo on Friday morning, she set a Canadian record by swimming a personal-best 52.59 seconds in the same event and it still wasn't enough to get on the podium.

The swimming has been fast at the Tokyo Aquatics Center. 

Australian Emma McKeon won gold in an Olympic record 51.96, while Hong Kong's Haughey Siobhan Bernadette (52.27) took silver and another Australian, Cate Campbell (52.52), grabbed the bronze.

WATCH | Oleksiak 4th in 100m freestyle:

Penny Oleksiak felt the weight of swimming as an Olympic champion

1 year ago
After becoming an Olympic champion in Rio, Oleksiak carried the pressures of expectation. Now 4 years later, she is using her experience (and tips from none other than Michael Phelps) to push herself forward, instead of pulling herself back.

"I'm honestly kind of happy the final was so fast. It just shows that women in the 100m free are really moving forward," Oleksiak said after the race. "It makes me excited to race in 2024 and see how I can figure out the race a little more."

Oleksiak said she was disappointed in her turn after the first 50 metres.

"I knew it wasn't my best turn and I was a little frustrated with that," she said. "I really tried to bring it home and I did my best. It's still fourth in the world so I'm not complaining."

It was the second fourth-place showing for Oleksiak in as many days after she and Canada's 4x200m relay team just missed the podium Thursday morning in Tokyo.

There were some nerves for the 21-year-old from Toronto prior to the race, knowing just how tough the field of athletes was.

"I was so nervous last night. Waking up every couple of hours thinking about it," she said. "I had to talk myself down a bit today. I'm in an Olympic final. I'm 21 years old. This isn't my last Olympics. Just learning from this."

Oleksiak was pursuing history, trying to win her seventh medal at the Olympics and become Canada's most decorated Olympian. 

It's been put on hold with one event left — she'll compete in the women's 4x100m medley relay on Sunday in Tokyo (Saturday night in Canada), the final day of swim competition at these Games. 

WATCH | Oleksiak on the pressure of being a champion:

"It's in the back of my mind," Oleksiak said of her chase. "But I have six Olympic medals. There are only three people in Canada who can say that. I'm not too concerned, if I have six Olympic medals, I have six Olympic medals."

Two days earlier, Oleksiak tied speed skaters Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen for the most medals won by Canadian Olympians with six (Hughes won two at as a cyclist.) Rowing's Lesley Thompson-Willie and track and field's Phil Edwards have five each in the Summer Olympics.

Prior to the Olympics Oleksiak had only swam four competitive races in 15 months — she's more than doubled that in a week in Tokyo. 

"I think I've had good recovery. We have a great physio team here. Ice baths. Proper recovery. Food. I think I've had optimal recovery. It's just a matter of figuring out the race and seeing what I can do better," Oleksiak said.

Canada's next chance for a medal in the pool comes in the women's 200m backstroke after Kylie Masse and Taylor Ruck advanced to the final, scheduled for Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET. Masse, from La Salle, Ont., won her semi in a time of 2:07.82 while Ruck, from Kelowna, B.C., was fourth in her semifinal in 2:08.73.


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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