Biography:

With immense challenges ahead, Penny Vilagos came out of a six year retirement in 1990 at the age of 27. She did not qualify for government funding requiring her to work and train full-time in order to compete at Barcelona 1992 in the synchronized swimming with her twin sister Vicky. In fitting symmetry, the Canadian Vilagos twins finished second to the American Josephson twins by 2.5 points, to capture the silver medal in the duet competition. Vilagos also competed in the solo event not advancing out of the qualifying round.

Vilagos and her sister, who grew up in Dollard des Ormeaux, Québec on the West Island of Montréal, discovered synchronized swimming at the age of eight and by 12 they were members of one Montréal’s top swimming clubs, CAMO Natation. Together they won their first junior duet national title in 1977, and Vilagos won the solo event. In 1980 at the Swiss Open, they were the first synchronized swimming duet team in the world to receive a perfect score of ’10’. They went on to capture five more national titles together, a 1983 Pan American Games duet silver medal and one 1982 World team title before retiring after not making the Canadian team for Los Angeles 1984. 

Vilagos graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University in 1986 receiving first-class academic honours all while training 30 hours a week. After Barcelona 1992, Vilagos was bedridden for years with chronic fatigue syndrome. Married to Peter Schell and settling in Pointe Claire, Québec, she worked extensively with the pharmaceutical industry and in the finance and real estate world. An active volunteer, motivational speaker and spokesperson for many charities and non-profit groups Vilagos is the co-author of nine books, including several in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. 

Vilagos was inducted into the McGill University Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 2002, Québec Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, and the International Swimming of Fame in 2014.