It might be a busy time of year to be an Oleksiak parent.
That’s because Richard and Alison Oleksiak will have two children competing at the highest levels of two different sports next week… and perhaps also competing for the attention of their proud and supportive parents.
Penny Oleksiak, of course, will be swimming at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, while her older brother Jamie plays for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
“My parents are probably going to watch every single Penguins game that they can watch, and probably going to watch every single swim that they can watch,” Oleksiak quipped today in a conference call with media. “They’ll probably have like four TVs going on at the same time so they can get every angle of both.”
“They’re pretty invested in all of our sports, and I’m probably going to be hearing a lot from them.”
Jamie, a defenseman with the Penguins, has five games remaining in the regular season, including season-ending April 5 and 6 games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Ottawa Senators, respectively. The Blue Jackets currently trail the Penguins by just a single point for the last of the Eastern Metropolitan Division’s playoff spots with the first team out thrust into a tight competition for the Eastern Conference’s two wild card slots.
Those two dates mark the opening days of the Commonwealth Games from Australia, where Oleksiak will likely swim the individual 200 free & the 400 free relay (April 5) and the 100 fly (April 6). Luckily for the Oleksiak parents, the time zone change means Penny’s medal finals should happen in the wee hours of the morning their time, while the only direct conflict might be Penny’s prelims (about 8 PM Eastern Time) and Jamie’s games (mostly around 7 or 7:30 PM Eastern).
Penny Oleksiak was one of six Canadian swimmers on the conference call from Team Canada’s training camp in Australia. Here are a few more notable bits and pieces from the conference call:
- Oleksiak hinted that she’d put a lot of focus on her 200 free lately in training. “I’ve been training a lot on my 200 free this year,” Oleksiak said, “and I’m excited to get to the meet and get up on some relays.” Despite holding a personal-best of 1:57.59 in the 200 (from Canadian Olympic Trials in 2016), Oleksiak split 1:54.94 on the team’s Olympic 4×200 free relay in Rio and should be primed for a big individual 200 free swim.
- High Performance Director John Atkinson said the team’s goal was to bring home more than the 11 medals it won at the last Commonwealth Games in 2014, though he said the team doesn’t talk about the specific numbers with regard to medal goals.
- There was quite a bit of talk about Canada’s young team, with a lot of Commonwealth Games rookies. “I think this will be a first Games experience for those rookies,” said Hilary Caldwell. “It’s a bit smaller than an Olympic Games, so it’s a good preparation for them going into Tokyo in a couple years.”
- Caldwell said she actually left Canada earlier, training in Australia for a few months. “After last year I was feeling a little bit mentally tapped out,” she said. “I took the fall to cut back on training a little bit. I went back to school, which I’d taken the last three or four years off… I was still training, but at a bit of a reduced schedule compared to normal. I came down [to Australia] right after Christmas. It was just nice to be in a group of people my own age… It sort of reminded me of the group I had six, seven years ago. It was a really great change. It was something new. And a good way to escape winter as well, which is definitely one of my favorite things to to,” she added with a laugh.
- Caldwell was also asked about having an early-spring rest meet: “We are used to having a Trials this time of year,” she said. “It’s true that the Australians tend to swim pretty lights-out fast in April, that’s kind of their historic trend… we’re not looking for slow performances from them by any means. We tend to double back from Trials to the summer pretty well, and our Trials times hold up… we’re definitely in a state where we’re pretty prepared.”