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Penny Olekiak rests her left arm on the side of the pool sollowing a race as she looks into the distance.

Best of 2021: Penny Oleksiak becomes Canada’s all-time decorated Olympian


Our Best of 2021 series recaps the incredible performances by Canadian athletes over the past year. Check out the full list here.


The bar was set high for Penny Oleksiak heading into Tokyo 2020. During Rio 2016, she became the first Canadian to win four medals in the same Summer Games and the country’s youngest Olympic champion at just 16 years old.

Despite the one-year delay for her second Olympic appearance, Oleksiak stayed in top form as she went home with three medals, becoming Canada’s all-time most decorated Olympian with seven. 

Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak wins bronze in the Women’s 200m Freestyle during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Photo by Mark Blinch/COC *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Here is how Oleksiak achieved that rarefied status at Tokyo 2020:

On Day 2, Oleksiak anchored the 4x100m freestyle relay team that also included Kayla Sanchez, Maggie Mac Neil and Rebecca Smith to the silver medal. The medal was Canada’s first of the Games.

Canada's freestyle relay team smiles on the podium
Canadian swimmers Kayla Sanchez, Margaret MacNeil, Rebecca Smith and Penny Oleksiak win silver in the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday, July 25, 2021. Photo by Mark Blinch/COC *MANDATORY CREDIT*

READ: Team Canada wins first medal of Tokyo 2020 in swimming

READ: Oleksiak makes Canadian Olympic history, but she didn’t do it alone

On Day 5, Oleksiak became Canada’s all-time most decorated summer Olympian after winning bronze in the women’s 200m freestyle.

READ: Oleksiak becomes Canada’s all-time most decorated summer Olympian

READ: Oleksiak sets herself apart, but she’s not done yet in Tokyo

On the final day of competition for swimming events, Day 8, Oleksiak took her place in the history books when she anchored Canada to bronze in the women’s 4x100m medley relay, joining forces with Kylie Masse, Sydney Pickrem, and Maggie Mac Neil. The medal made Oleksiak Canada’s all-time most decorated Olympian, surpassing speed skater Cindy Klassen and speed skater/road cyclist Clara Hughes who had each won six medals in their careers.

Penny Oleksiak swimming freestyle
Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak competes in the Women’s 200m Freestyle during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Photo by Mark Blinch/COC *MANDATORY CREDIT*

READ: Team Canada wins women’s medley relay bronze at Tokyo 2020

READ: ‘Best girls in the world’ help Oleksiak reach seventh heaven

READ: Penny Oleksiak’s Olympic medals in photos

READ: Here’s what people are saying about Penny’s historic medals from Tokyo 2020

READ: Swimmers make Tokyo 2020 a Games to remember for Canada

Oleksiak also set a Canadian record with a time of 52.59 seconds in the 100m freestyle final, swimming faster than her gold medal-winning time in Rio. In an incredibly fast field, however, she finished fourth.

Oleksiak’s performance cemented her status as Canada’s most accomplished Olympic athlete, and at the age of 21, she’s not even close to being finished.