A new national swimming star emerged on Tuesday at the Olympic trials in Toronto, where two records fell as Canadians made their bid for the Rio 2016 roster.
Less than a year after then 17-year-old Emily Overholt stole headlines for her performance at the Pan American Games in the same pool, another teenager, Penny Oleksiak (15), has announced her intentions by smashing the Canadian women’s 100-metre butterfly record and reducing it to 56.99s. Noemie Thomas (57.02s), closely followed Oleksiak, both touching the wall ahead of previous fly record holder Katerine Savard (57.75s).
While all three swimmers were under the 58.74s requirement for Rio, only the top two head to Brazil, leaving Savard – whose previous best was 57.27s set on April 4, 2014 in Victoria – looking to other races or potentially a spot on a relay team for Rio with five nights of finals to go, ending with the official Olympic team announcement on Sunday.
Oleksiak was first out of the heats on Tuesday, foreshadowing something special for the final. In a Swimming Canada release, she called the sub-57 second time “insane.”
“I didn’t know I was going to do that,” Oleksiak said. “When I woke up this morning I was just trying to see how fast I could go.”
Another record fell in the women’s 400m freestyle, where Brittany MacLean brought her own mark down to four minutes and 3.84 seconds to qualify for Rio. Her previous best of 4:05.06 was set at the last Olympic Games in London during the heats before she was seventh in the final.
MacLean, 22, said “her goal was to just get on the team,” but she can boast far more than that, registering the second fastest time in the 400-free this year behind the world champion in that distance, Katie Ledecky of the United States.
Aside from Oleksiak, Thomas and MacLean, no other Canadian swimmers met their respective Olympic qualification marks on opening night.