Canadian Olympic Trials: Reigning Olympic Champ Penny Oleksiak Rips 52.89 100 Free

Penny Oleksiak; Photo Courtesy: Michael P. Hall/Swimming Canada

Canadian Olympic Trials: Reigning Olympic Champ Penny Oleksiak Rips 52.89 100 Free

Penny Oleksiak has been gotten messages during Canadian Olympic Trials wondering where she is.

Partially, that’s because there’s no “Penny” on the heat sheets. Instead, the swimmer whose mental focus has been on returning to the mindset of a relative unknown rather than an Olympic champion, is listed as “Penelope.”

And that’s just fine, since Penelope Oleksiak is swimming about as fast as Penny Oleksiak ever has.

Oleksiak re-entered rarefied air in the women’s 100 free Tuesday night, getting back under 53 seconds to win the event in 52.89. The time is the third-fastest in the world in 2021, and it’s near the 52.70 that Oleksiak used in Rio to tie for the gold medal.

“It honestly just gives me a massive boost of confidence that I think I’ve been searching for a little bit,” Oleksiak said on a post-meet Zoom call. “I’ve been having good races when we do our time trials and I’ve been in the 53s, which is pretty rare for me in-season. To come to this meet not fully tapered and have that competitive edge again and have those girls to race against, I think it really pushed me and gave me that confidence for Tokyo.”

It’s been a long journey for Oleksiak, who went from teenage prospect to global superstar by tying with Simone Manuel in Rio for gold. Admittedly, the weight of expectation that came with that medal was a lot to carry. It conveyed into two World Championships where she didn’t medal individually.

Penny Oleksiak-Olympic Swimming Trials-h-20june2021Photo Scott Grant

Penny Oleksiak; Photo Courtesy: Scott Grant/Swimming Canada

Oleksiak said this week that her focus has been on returning to the mental clarity of her pre-Rio life: No expectations, just racing and having fun. She’s gotten there, she thinks. And swims like Tuesday provide the confidence to continue that.

The confidence fuels the other part of the equation, which is her race program. Oleksiak took gold in the 100 free and silver in the 100 fly in Rio. She’s not swimming the latter event at Trials, where Canada has the reigning world champion in Maggie MacNeil. When Olympic pre-selections were made in May, Oleksiak made the team in the 200 free … but not the 100, where Taylor Ruck was picked.

That change isn’t so much in her training as in her mentality. While she wasn’t all that pleased with her time in the 200 free on Sunday, finishing second to 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, it is job done for Oleksiak to get to Tokyo and be a cornerstone of the 800 free relay.

“I think after Rio, I had a really big high,” Oleksiak said. “And it was super fun to swim, go to meets, be kind of known in the swimming community. I think after that, there was a lot of pressure behind my name and behind the 100 free and it wasn’t really enjoyable for me. And no time was ever really good enough for me. I always wanted to be at that 52 time and I wasn’t getting that. I think now I’m back into that mindset where I have that confidence again, I’m excited to swim again, I love training again.”

Oleksiak led three swimmers with A cuts in the race, which complicates the selection picture since Ruck isn’t among them. Second was Kayla Sanchez, the 50 free champ, in 53.77. MacNeil was third in 54.02 to all but guarantee a relay spot. Katerine Savard continues an outstanding trials by taking fourth in 54.51.

Ruck was fifth in 54.48. She’s struggled in freestyle events this week, scratching the 50 free and failing to make finals in the 200 free, both events in which she holds national records. Ruck’s best time in the 100 free is a 53.03 that will have to be weighed against Sanchez’s more recent swims.

For Oleksiak, Trials brings an interesting inflection point. For years, she was all about racing, a sprinter who would throw down any day. Loving training required time and effort. Now, thanks to the pandemic, the 21-year-old came to appreciate training at a deeper level … so much so that she was nervous about the return to racing after the long COVID-related layoff.

Tuesday’s effort put to rest any doubts she might have had about her ability to get up on the block and take on the world’s best.

“I always loved racing and hated training,” she said. “And I think that race pushed me back into my love for racing, and it got me excited for Tokyo.”

Event 21  Women 100 LC Meter Freestyle
     CANADIAN: N 52.70  2016-08-11Penny Oleksiak, TSC
    OLYMPIC A: A 54.38
    Name                 Year Team              Prelims     Finals        
                        === A - Final ===                         
  1 Oleksiak, Penelope     00 TSC                 54.00      52.89A 
    r:+0.71  25.66        52.89 (27.23)
  2 Sanchez, Kayla         01 AAC                 54.18      53.77A 
    r:+0.73  25.68        53.77 (28.09)
  3 MacNeil, Margaret      00 LAC                 54.88      54.02A 
    r:+0.66  26.24        54.02 (27.78)
  4 Savard, Katerine       93 CAMO                54.82      54.51  
    r:+0.62  26.33        54.51 (28.18)
  5 Ruck, Taylor           00 SCAR                54.73      54.58  
    r:+0.72  25.77        54.58 (28.81)
  6 Smith, Rebecca         00 SCAR                54.88      54.64  
    r:+0.74  26.02        54.64 (28.62)
  7 Fournier, Sarah        96 CNQ                 55.39      54.82  
    r:+0.71  26.63        54.82 (28.19)
  8 Douthwright, Brooklyn  03 CNBO                55.49      55.15  
    r:+0.67  26.32        55.15 (28.83)
  9 Daley, Elan            05 MAC                 56.25      55.93  
    r:+0.64  26.99        55.93 (28.94)
 10 Ackman, Alyson         93 PCSC                56.02      56.76  
    r:+0.62  27.38        56.76 (29.38)

Men’s 100 Freestyle

While the finals picture Tuesday night was clear, the path forward is similarly muddled on the men’s side, where three swimmers have A cuts. Joshua Liendo added his name to the list in the night session, bossing the final to win in 48.13 seconds, well under the A standard of 48.57 and the fastest for a Canadian man this cycle.

Joshua Liendo-Olympic Swimming Trials-h-22june2021Photo Scott Grant

Joshua Liendo; Photo Courtesy: Scott Grant/Swimming Canada

“That was really surreal, that race,” Liendo said. “A lot of things changed pretty quickly. I’m happy with how I’m adapted. I just got out there and swam it my best, gave it my all. I’m happy with the way that turned out.”

Yuri Kisil, who got his A cut in the morning at 48.43, scratched the final. So did Brent Hayden, who finished eighth in prelims, due to back pain. Hayden has an A cut of 48.47.

Three A cuts bodes well for the relays, but it makes the selection picture for the individual event tough. The 100 free is the only A cut for Kisil. Hayden won the 50 free Monday night. Liendo has A cuts in the 50 free, 100 fly and 100 free.

Second in the race was Ruslan Gaziev, stating his case for a Tokyo relay spot in 48.81. Third was Markus Thormeyer, the likely front-runner for that fourth relay berth, in 49.24. Javier Acevedo was fourth.

The three A cuts might make it hard on the selectors for the Games. But it’s indicative of how the Canadian sprint program, energized by Hayden’s late-career resurgence and Liendo’s rising profile at age 18, is able to push itself forward.

“Once someone else goes fast, you definitely get motivated,” Liendo said. “These are people that you see all the time, that you train with. 100 percent you feed off that energy. Yesterday, watching Finlay Knox go that 1:58.1 (in the 200 IM), just filled me with so much energy, especially the young guys, too, making the team. That really pumps me up. I love seeing that.”

Event 22  Men 100 LC Meter Freestyle
     CANADIAN: N 47.27  2009-07-30Brent  Hayden, UBCD
    OLYMPIC A: A 48.57
    Name                 Year Team              Prelims     Finals        
                        === A - Final ===                         
  1 Liendo, Joshua         02 NYAC                49.24      48.13A 
    r:+0.66  22.88        48.13 (25.25)
  2 Gaziev, Ruslan         99 ESWIM               48.92      48.81  
    r:+0.68  23.36        48.81 (25.45)
  3 Thormeyer, Markus      97 UBCT                49.34      49.24  
    r:+0.73  24.06        49.24 (25.18)
  4 Acevedo, Javier        98 AAC                 49.99      49.32  
    r:+0.65  23.93        49.32 (25.39)
  5 Knox, Finlay           01 SCAR                50.03      49.79  
    r:+0.68  24.02        49.79 (25.77)
  6 Calkins, Stephen       98 UCSC                49.60      49.88  
    r:+0.67  23.74        49.88 (26.14)
  7 Pratt, Cole            02 CASC                50.22      50.11  
    r:+0.72  24.62        50.11 (25.49)
  8 Olafson, Carson        97 UBCT                50.24      50.26  
    r:+0.69  24.09        50.26 (26.17)
  9 Marcoux, Philippe      99 UL                  50.32      50.93  
    r:+0.65  24.11        50.93 (26.82)
 -- Kisil, Yuri            95 WS                  48.43         NS


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Maryann Farnsworth Faulkner

Damn, USA has their work cut out for them!

2 years ago

Thank you Swimming World for your super coverage of all the Olympic Trials in recent weeks. It has been entertaining and informative, with insider knowledge and great interviews / quotes that are not always on a certain other website (which posts irritating videos interspersed with pointless ‘crackling noises.’)
My only grouse is that you get someone to fix this comments board to prevent all these multiple posts – I have no wish to see this 20 times! lol

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