She’s still a teenager, and will return to her junior year of high school at Monarch Park Collegiate Institute this fall, but Penny Oleksiak will do so with a very different identity: The best Canadian swimmer of all-time.
No, that’s not an exaggeration. With her fourth medal of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro — and first gold — in the 100-meter freestyle, Oleksiak officially earned more medals in a single Olympic Games than any Canadian swimmer ever. Remarkably, three of those medals came in individual events as well (just one of her bronze medals came in a relay, the 4×200-meter freestyle race).
To put her accomplishments in the most appropriate perspective possible, that of Michael Phelps himself, consider this: At age 16, Phelps won his first medal at a major international competition, the 200-meter butterfly, at the 2001 World Championships. At the age of 16, Oleksiak has four medals. At the Olympics.
None of this is to say that Oleksiak will surpass Phelps (it’s unlikely) or that she’ll even continue with her current rocket-like trajectory through the ranks of elite competitive swimming. She need only look at the current plight of Missy Franklin.
Still, it’s an understatement to say that Oleksiak is off to a good start. After all, it’s better than any other Canadian, ever.