Canada’s Penny Oleksiak competes in her women’s 100m freestyle heat at the Aquatic Centre during the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, Sunday, April 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Rio superstar Oleksiak getting used to fame as she juggles school and swimming

VANCOUVER — Penny Oleksiak still finds it hard to believe that she gets asked for autographs.

“There were a couple girls waiting for me at the airport when I got here,” the 17-year-old swimming star said Thursday after training for this weekend’s Mel Zajac Jr. International meet at the University of British Columbia. “I think it’s not normal, but it’s something I’ve adjusted to and got used to.”

Oleksiak became a household name while winning four swimming medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but the Toronto native is still trying to figure out how fame has changed her life.

“Honestly, it’s hard to say (how), because I can’t really remember what I was doing before,” she said. “I was just living my life like a normal teen and, now, that’s what I’m (still) doing — but there’s obviously some people watching.”

But the attention nationwide attention that came almost overnight in Rio is not a big deal to her anymore.

“I think, at first, it was a bit more exciting for me,” she said. “I was, like, ‘Oh, this is cool and I can get my story out.’ And then, I was kind of like, ‘Now I’ve told everyone my story.”’

So Oleksiak is getting on with life as she attempts to follow up on her success as the first Canadian to win four medals in the same Summer Games and the country’s youngest Olympic champion. In Rio she won gold in the 100-metre freestyle, silver in the 100-metre butterfly, and two bronzes in the women’s four-by-100 and four-by-200-metre freestyle relays.

The accomplishments brought many accolades, including being named Canada’s flag-bearer in the Rio closing ceremony and the winner of the 2016 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s athlete of the year. Canada’s Olympic women’s swim team was named The Canadian Press team of the year in 2016.

The recognition brought heightened expectations — from others and herself.

“There’s definitely an underlying pressure that I put on myself,” Oleksiak said.

She will apply that pressure while preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Games with the Pan-Pacific championships this summer and the world championships in 2019.

“My focus is (on) just getting fit and back in shape before Pan-Pacs,” she said. “I’ll see how that goes and, after that, (concentrate on) getting better for worlds and then better for the Olympics. It’s just a buildup for me.”

Right now, she is trying not to think too much about competing in her second Games.

“In February, that was in the back of my mind,” she said. “But I plan to just keep it in the back of my mind until it actually becomes something that (I) have to deal with now.”

In the meantime, the Grade 12 student is working on graduating from high school, probably next year, while taking classes mainly online these days as she travels to various events.

Oleksiak will use this weekend’s meet, which features several international swimmers, including U.S. Olympians Ryan Lochte and Caeleb Dressel, as an opportunity to gauge her performance and fitness levels.

“I’ve been training really hard the last month and a half, and I’m a little bit dead, but we’ll see where I’m at, I guess,” she said.

Just Posted

Number of seniors who play bridge in Red Deer growing

Red Deer Bridge Club has been around for close to 60 years

PHOTOS: Buccaneers battle Wolfpack in AFL semifinal

The Central Alberta Buccaneers battled the Calgary Wolfpack in the Alberta Football… Continue reading

Raising awareness for Bikers Against Child Abuse

Second annual Raise A Ruckus Against Child Abuse was held at the Red Deer Radisson Hotel Saturday

Central Alberta Yogathon cancelled Saturday

Due to air quality concerns the fourth annual event will take place Sept. 15

City Hall Park construction begins next week

Construction to update Red Deer’s City Hall Park is set to begin… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

In the wake of deadly flooding in the Indian state of Kerala,… Continue reading

Indonesia’s Lombok island jolted by multiple quakes

SEMBALUN, Indonesia — Strong earthquakes jolted the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok… Continue reading

Afghan president calls for Eid cease-fire, Taliban to reply

KABUL — Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a conditional cease-fire… Continue reading

Montreal may have less influence after October provincial election

MONTREAL — When Coalition Avenir Quebec Leader Francois Legault recently dismissed the… Continue reading

Privacy issue with online pot sales after legalization needs watching: experts

TORONTO — Buyers who have to provide personal information to purchase recreational… Continue reading

Range of reactions to possible holiday to mark legacy of residential schools

The federal government’s intention to enact a statutory holiday aimed at remembering… Continue reading

Wildfire smoke from B.C. gets in the way of mountain scenery for tourists

JASPER, Alta. — Smoke from wildfires that’s blanketing parts of Alberta does… Continue reading

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

The once meat-dominated world of fast-food and casual restaurants is starting to… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month