Gold Coast, Mar 31 (AFP) Canada’s Penny Oleksiak is not your average teenager.
At the tender age of 16, she captured swimming gold in the women’s 100 metres freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics to finish with four medals — the best-ever haul by a Canadian at a single Summer Games.
But after melting hearts in Brazil, Oleksiak flopped at last year’s world championships, something she’s determined to avoid when she makes her Commonwealth Games debut in Gold Coast.
“It was crazy after Rio because there was so much hype around it,” Okeksiak said after training for the competition, which begins next week.
“It was pretty hard, everyone was freaking out. Even now it’s just different knowing little kids look up to me and want to follow in my footsteps.
“Last year it was more trying to chill out and kind of find my space and get off of 2016.” Oleksiak, who dead-heated with Simone Manuel to claim gold in the 100m free in Rio, admits she has had to quickly go from being a goofy teen to a serious athlete.
“It’s a bit different in that if I was just a regular 17-year-old, I’d be joking around doing whatever I want to do,” said the Toronto native, who also took Olympic silver in the 100m butterfly and double relay bronze.
“But now I watch what I do more and am more conscious of everything that’s happening.” Oleksiak, whose brother Jamie plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League, faces a stern test in Gold Coast from Aussie sisters Cate and Bronte Campbell in the 100m freestyle.
Cate, who took a year off from swimming last year after slumping to sixth in the Rio final, has roared back to form by breaking a national record in the 50m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games trials, where she beat Bronte in the 100m.
Oleksiak, meanwhile, will also step up to the 200m freestyle for the first time in a major competition in Gold Coast, where she is targeting a return to the podium despite struggling with a cold in the build-up.
“I’m really hoping I do well in the 200m just because it’s something that I’ve been working on this year,” she said.
“I’m getting more confident. If anything this year I’ve been a little bit more motivated because my times haven’t been as great as they were in Olympic year.
“I just want to be up there again.” (AFP) ATK ATK
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.