From promising newcomer to Olympic champion in just six days—what a week it’s been for Penny Oleksiak.
The 16-year-old swimmer from Toronto claimed her fourth medal of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Thursday night, winning gold in the women’s 100m freestyle in a tie with 20-year-old American Simone Manuel.
“This is amazing, to tie for a gold,” said Oleksiak. “I never thought I’d win a gold. (Manuel) deserves it as much as me. It means so much.”
Not only did Oleksiak win Canada’s first gold of these Games, she made all sorts of history in the process.
She set a new Olympic record with a time of 52.70 seconds in the 100m freestyle, a record she’ll share with Manuel. But Oleksiak stands alone as the first Canadian athlete to win four medals at a single Summer Games.
Her gold is Canada’s first in the pool since Mark Tewksbury won the 100m backstroke final at Barcelona 1992, and the first by a Canadian woman since Anne Ottenbrite’s gold in the 200m breaststroke at Los Angeles 1984.
Fittingly, Manuel—with whom Oleksiak shared the gold medal—made history of her own, becoming the first African-American woman to win an Olympic swimming medal in an individual event.
“My first gold medal, at my first Olympics, is kind of a surprise to me,” said Manuel. “I’m so blessed and honoured to be on the medal stand. All my hard work has paid off and I am really happy about it.”
Canada will compete in the women’s 4×100 medley relay heats on Friday, giving Oleksiak the possibility of walking away from Rio with five medals altogether.
For reference’s sake, the most decorated Canadian Olympians of all time are Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes, who each won six medals over the course of their careers.