Oleksiak earns historic medal No. 7 as Canadian women win bronze in 4x100m medley relay

The Canadian swimming women have done it again at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The foursome of Kylie Masse, Sydney Pickrem, Maggie Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak powered their way to a bronze medal in the women’s 4×100-metre medley relay on Sunday morning at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. 

The four finished in a Canadian-record time of three minutes 52.60 seconds to finish third, behind the gold-medal-winning Australia (3:51.60) and the U.S. (3:51.73), who took silver.

It’s yet another podium performance at the pool for Canada, a sixth medal at the Tokyo Olympics matching their total from five years ago in Rio.

In the process, Oleksiak becomes the most decorated Olympian in Canadian history with seven career medals. The 21-year-old from Toronto won four medals in Rio and has followed it up with three medals in Tokyo. 

It was Oleksiak’s third attempt at the Canadian record medal. She had to settle for fourth-place finishes in her two previous races — the 100m freestyle and 200m freestyle relay.

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Maggie Mac Neil, left to right, Sydney Pickrem and Kylie Masse, with Penny Oleksiak, in the water, react to their time to win a bronze medal in the women’s 4x100m medley relay. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

“I honestly am glad I didn’t win it in an individual [event] because this just makes it 10 times sweeter knowing that I’ve accomplished this history with girls that are also making history,” a beaming Oleksiak told CBC Sports, as she pointed to the next two Olympics in 2024 and 2028. “This is only the beginning for Team Canada and swimming.

“We were young in 2016 and we’re still young and going to hit our peak soon.”

WATCH | Team wanted to win it for Oleksiak:

Kylie Masse, Sydney Pickrem, Maggie Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak discuss winning the bronze medal in the women’s 4×100-metre medley that gave Oleksiak a Canadian-record 7th Olympic medal. 2:39

Mac Neil, who won gold in the women’s 100m butterfly and silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay, also won three medals at this meet, as did LaSalle, Ont.’s Masse, who added to her two silvers from the 100m and 200m backstrokes.

Oleksiak, Mac Neil and Oleksiak are the first Canadian trio to win multiple medals at a non-boycotted Olympics in the same sport.

It’s Pickrem’s first Olympic medal in two appearances at the Games.

WATCH | Oleksiak anchors medley relay to bronze:

Canadians Kylie Masse, Sydney Pickrem, Maggie Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak swam to a national-record time of three minutes 52.60 seconds to earn bronze in the women’s 4×100-metre medley relay, giving Oleksiak a Canadian-record seventh Olympic medal. Australia took gold, giving Emma McKeon her fourth gold medal and seventh overall at Tokyo 2020. 8:43

Days earlier, Oleksiak tied speed skaters Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen for the most medals won by Canadian Olympians with six. Rowing’s Lesley Thompson-Willie and track and field’s Phil Edwards have five each in the Summer Olympics.

Oleksiak now has one gold, two silver and four bronze medals at two Olympics. 

In her Olympic debut at just 16 years old in Rio, Oleksiak became the first Canadian athlete to win four medals at a single Summer Games. 

Swimmers set 7 Canadian records

She became the country’s first Olympic champion in swimming since Mark Tewksbury at the 1992 Olympics and the first female Canadian to earn that title since Anne Ottenbrite won gold in Los Angeles in 1984.

In addition to the six medals, Canadian swimmers broke seven Canadian records and finished fourth four times at these Tokyo Olympics. 

“Our team had a goal to be competitive from Day 1 to Day 9 of the Olympic Games swimming program,” said John Atkinson, Swimming Canada high performance director. “We also focused on improvement and progression through prelims, semifinals and finals, and to achieve these goals we would require resilience.

“I believe we attained all three of these goals, and the athletes, coaches and staff have delivered.”

Two of the fourth-place finishes came from 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, who undoubtedly will be a force three years from now in Paris. And the Canadian men’s fourth-place finish in the men’s 4x100m relay was its best finish ever in that event. 

Marnie McBean, Canada’s chef de mission in Tokyo, applauded Oleksiak’s performance under pressure.

“Seven medals says a lot about the depth of Penny as much as it does about her talent. Winning one medal is hard, and multiple at one Games is all about the ability to reset and focus,” said McBean, who won four medals — three of them gold — as a rower. “Winning multiple medals at multiple Games — that is a battle against so much more.

“The notion of repeating and the burden of expectations, internally and externally, can be so disruptive. Penny figured out how to thrive all while being an amazing role model to young Canadians,” she said.

“Five years ago, Penny Oleksiak captured the hearts of the nation with her record-setting Olympic debut at Rio 2016 and it has been thrilling to watch her shine once again at Tokyo 2020,” said David Shoemaker, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s CEO, in a statement issued by the organization.

“To now see her become Canada’s most decorated Olympian at age 21 is nothing short of extraordinary. Penny’s immense talent is matched only by her poise and dedication as she continues to be an inspiration to us all. Absolutely incredible, Penny! We are all very proud!”

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