Penny Oleksiak ready for Rio rematch
As Cate Campbell prepares to return to the world stage, the Canadian rival who beat her to Olympic gold is just as excited to see her in the pool again.
Penny Oleksiak is the Olympic 100m Freestyle record holder, the country’s youngest ever Olympic champion and she’s just 17.
She inspired a nation with her unforgettable victory at the Rio Olympics in an upset over the Australian favourite.
Two years have passed and like the rest of the world, Oleksiak has been anticipating their rematch at GC2018.
“I’m really excited,” Oleksiak told GC2018.com.
“Just to be able to race the best, one of the best swimmers in the world.
It’s always a pleasure to race Cate because she’s always so focused with everything she’s doing and even just watching her on the pool deck getting ready, it’s just cool to see that and it’s something I want to resemble one day.”
Oleksiak will be the one to watch at the Optus Aquatic Centre, with eight events on her swimming program including the star-studded 100m Freestyle.
In Rio, Oleksiak was seventh place at the 50-metre turn before storming home to tie for the gold medal with USA’s Simone Manuel, setting an Olympic record.
Campbell, the favourite, had broken the world record in the heats and semifinals and was leading the final until the turn. She finished sixth and went on to describe the race as ‘possibly the greatest choke in Olympic history’ before taking a year-long sabbatical from the sport.
Campbell returned to competition in spectacular fashion at the Australian Trials in February, setting two Australian records and winning three national titles.
With the stacked field also including Bronte Campbell and another Canadian 17-year-old, Taylor Ruck, the 100m Freestyle is one of the most anticipated events on the GC2018 schedule, but Oleksiak is more focused on the new race she’s adding to her program.
Oleksiak will race the 200m Freestyle for the first time in a major competition, a debut that has been two years in the making.
“I wanted to do it at the Olympics, but then I [decided] maybe I should hold on that because it would have been a pretty packed schedule and I don’t think I was ready for that.
Literally ever since then I was like, OK, I’m going to debut it at the Comm Games.
“It’s been a pretty long process but now it’s here and it’s coming up so we’ll see what happens.”
While Campbell’s memories of Rio are laced with disappointment, Oleksiak’s are the opposite.
Her success saw her become a household name overnight in Canada.
She was the first Olympic champion to be born in the 2000s and the first Canadian to win four medals in a Summer Olympics.
Oleksiak is under no illusion that hers is the typical 17-year-old experience.
“It was definitely crazy after Rio because there was so much hype around it,” she said.
“But even now, it’s just different, kind of being an influencer I would say, just seeing there are little kids who look up to me and want to follow in my footsteps with everything.
“I feel like if I was just a regular 17-year-old kid I’d be joking around doing whatever I want to do and going wherever, but I watch what I do more and I am very conscious of everything that’s happening.”
While her public profile has taken some getting used to, Oleksiak is passionate about using her new platform for good.
“I feel like it’s always exciting to be a part of this generation getting to grow up in this time, to see equality really be a big thing and start seeing people, not necessarily just women but people of colour, everywhere and everything,” she said.
“Just standing up for their rights and standing up for what’s right. It’s just exciting to be in this time.
“Being able to speak out about stuff like that and have it be OK, that’s even more of a plus.”
At GC2018, Oleksiak is expected to swim the 50m Freestyle, 100m Freestyle, 200m Freestyle – against reigning Commonwealth Games champion Emma McKeon and 17-year-old Australian star Ariarne Titmus – 50m Butterfly, 100m Butterfly and three relays. In addition to the 100m Freestyle showdown, Campbell and Oleksiak will meet in the 50m Freestyle, 100m Butterfly and the 100m relays.
Additional Swimming tickets have been released but they’re selling fast. Get tickets to the Women’s 100m Freestyle final.
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