2016 FEMALE BREAKOUT SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: PENNY OLEKSIAK
Canadian Olympian Penny Oleksiak burst on to the scene in 2016, rising through the ranks to land on top of the podium at the Rio Olympic Games. She quickly went from being one of the top junior swimmers in the world to establishing herself as an individual Olympic champion.
After picking up a handful of silver medals at Junior Worlds in 2015, Oleksiak was pegged as an Olympic hopeful. When Candian Olympic Trials arrived, the world saw 15-year-old Oleksiak win the 100 fly (56.99) and 100 free (53.31) with new Canadian Record times in both. In doing so, she dropped 1.5 seconds from her previous lifetime best in the 100 fly, and dropped over a full second in the 100 free.
But Oleksiak wasn’t done there. Shortly after turning 16, she took the Olympic stage for Canada. In her first individual event of the meet, she dropped another half second from her 100 fly time, setting a new Junior World Record to win an Olympic silver medal in 56.46. Days later, she went on to become the first Canadian Olympic gold medalist in decades, blasting another Junior World Record time of 52.70 to tie for gold with Team USA’s Simone Manuel. Over the course of the year, Oleksiak had dropped over 2 seconds in the 100 fly and nearly 2 full seconds in the 100 free.
In addition to her Olympic success, Oleksiak has continued to shine as one of the top swimmers in the world through the short course portion of 2016. At the 2016 Short Course World Championships, she broke the Canadian Record in the 100 free 3 times and won a bronze medal in the final.
In no particular order
- Lilly King, USA- King quickly became one of the USA’s best breaststroke prospects after first making the national team as a high school swimmer in 2014. As a freshman at Indiana University, she shattered the NCAA Records in the 100 breast and 200 breast at the 2016 NCAA Championships. In the 100 breast, she became the first woman in history to swim under 57 seconds. During the long course portion of 2016, King qualified to swim both breaststrokes at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She charged to an Olympic gold medal in the 100 breast, setting a new Olympic Record in the process.
- Pernille Blume, Denmark- Blume wasn’t pegged as a medal favorite heading into the Rio Games, but she pulled off a major upset to win Olympic gold. In prelims, she set a new Danish Record to take top seed, and held that seed through the semis. She then broke the record again to win the final with a 24.07, giving Denmark their first ever Olympic medal in the women’s 50 free. She dropped over half a second from her former best in 2016, which stood at a 24.59 from 2014.