Maggie Mac Neil walking by photographers waving her hand.Photo by Darren Calabrese/COC
Photo by Darren Calabrese/COC

Three-time Olympic medallist Maggie Mac Neil named Best Female Athlete of Tokyo 2020

Add another award to Maggie Mac Neil’s ever expanding trophy case!

On Sunday, the 21-year-old swimmer was named Best Female Athlete of Tokyo 2020 at the VII ANOC Awards presented during the ANOC General Assembly in Crete, Greece.

“It was really exciting, it feels like the Oscars, which I’ve watched growing up so this was really cool,” Mac Neil said afterwards about accepting the award on stage.

Mac Neil had an Olympic debut to remember this past summer as she won three medals, highlighted by her gold in the women’s 100m butterfly. It was Canada’s first gold of the Games and she set an Americas region record of 55.59 seconds in the victory while lowering her own national record by almost a quarter of a second.

She had gone to the Games as the reigning world champion in the event and said afterwards that she focused on having fun to forget the pressure of being the woman with the target on her back.

Margaret MacNeil, right, of Canada, reacts after winning the final of the women’s 100-meter butterfly as Sarah Sjoestroem, of Sweden, looks on at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

READ: Mac Neil wins Canada’s first gold of Tokyo 2020 in 100m butterfly
READ: Mac Neil getting used to a new title: Olympic champion

Just a day earlier, Mac Neil had helped win Canada’s first medal of Tokyo 2020 when she swam the second leg in the final for the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team that won silver. On the last day of competition in the pool, MacNeil swam the butterfly leg in the final of the women’s 4x100m medley relay as the Canadian quartet set a national record to win bronze.  

READ: Team Canada wins first medal of Tokyo 2020 in swimming
READ: Team Canada wins women’s medley relay bronze at Tokyo 2020

Asked at the ANOC Awards whether being Olympic champion had set in yet, Mac Neil responded “definitely not” but that every time she gives her gold medal to someone new as a way of inspiring them “it gets a little bit more real.”

Canadian swimmers celebrate on pool deck
Canadian swimmers Kayla Sanchez, Margaret MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak win silver in the Women’s 4x100m Butterfly during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday, July 25, 2021. Photo by Mark Blinch/COC

ANOC is the Association of National Olympic Committees, an umbrella organization that represents the collective interests of the world’s 206 NOCs. The ANOC Awards were first presented in 2014 and in Olympic years they recognize achievements from the previous Olympic Games.

In their first incarnation, Team Canada’s men’s and women’s hockey teams were honoured as the Best Male and Best Female Teams of Sochi 2014.  

Awards were also presented in Crete for Best Male Athlete (Kenyan marathon gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge), Best Female Team (New Zealand rugby sevens), Best Male Team (Japanese baseball team), Best Female Multiple Athlete Event (Estonian épée fencing team), Best Male Multiple Athlete Event (Italian track cycling team pursuit), Outstanding NOC Performance (Japan), Outstanding Athlete Performance (Cuban wrestler Mijain Lopez who won his fourth straight Olympic gold medal).

Because of the global pandemic, this year’s General Assembly is the first time the world’s NOCs have gathered to discuss common challenges and opportunities in the Olympic Movement. The ANOC Awards were also last held in 2019.