Former coach beaming as Penny Oleksiak wins bronze in Tokyo

Toronto Swim Club head coach Bill O’Toole says he’s a pretty reserved person — but he still jumped out of his seat watching swimmer Penny Oleksiak take home bronze in the 200-metre freestyle race in Tokyo, making her the most decorated Summer Olympian in Canadian history.

O’Toole has coached for more than 30 years and worked with a number of world-class swimmers during that time, and none more so than Oleksiak, who further cemented her place in the history books Wednesday morning.

“[It’s] amazing,” O’Toole said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. “So happy for her.”

LISTEN | Former coach talks Oleksiak’s big win:

Metro Morning7:09‘I jumped out of my seat’: Penny Oleksiak’s former coach on her new record

Canada’s top summer Olympian Penny Oleksiak always had a natural feel for the water, former coach Bill O’Toole says. 7:09

The 21-year-old from Toronto swam a personal best time of one minute, 54.70 seconds, netting her sixth Olympic medal and third bronze of her illustrious career. She anchored Canada to a silver medal in the 4×100-metre freestyle on Sunday to go with the four she won in her first Olympics in 2016 in Rio — one gold, one silver and two bronze.

“I just love the Olympics. I think they’re so fun and I think knowing the whole world is watching is super crazy,” Oleksiak said. “I’m not done yet so I hope there’s more coming.”

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O’Toole first met Oleksiak at a competition around a decade ago, while he was coaching another swimmer — who Oleksiak beat. He says she is “genetically-gifted,” and comes from a very athletic family. 

“You can definitely see it,” he said.

Part of Oleksiak’s prowess stems from her great feel for water and the ability to make micro-adjustments to her technique and maintain that, he said. Now, he sees an athlete who is moving with confidence and is poised for more medals.

“I think she’s in a wonderful place.”

WATCH | Penny Oleksiak receives record-tying 6th medal:

Watch Penny Oleksiak receive her Olympic bronze medal from the women’s 200-metre freestyle event. It’s her sixth-career Olympic medal, making her the most decorated Canadian Summer Olympian, and tying her with Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen for the most medals won by Canadian Olympians. 1:22

Oleksiak, who has three races remaining in the Olympic meet, ties speed skaters Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen for the most medals won by Canadian Olympians, while rowing’s Lesley Thompson-Willie and track and field’s Phil Edwards have five each in the Summer Olympics.

“I’m just competitive. I love pressure I guess. I know when it counts I’m able to show up for it. Bronze medal. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Oleksiak said. 

She’ll now look to defend her Olympic gold in the women’s 100-metres freestyle event in Tokyo on Friday morning and add to her historic medal haul. She is also scheduled to compete in the women’s 4×100-metre medley relay heats Friday night and will also be part of the 4×200-metre freestyle team.

At 21 years old and with lots of chances to win ahead of her, where could Oleksiak’s limit be?

“I don’t see any limits for her,” O’Toole said.

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