Penny Oleksiak of Canada was only 16 years of age when she stole the swimming spotlight at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
The teenager tied American Simone Manuel for gold in the women’s 100m freestyle, but also snagged individual silver in the 100m fly, along with two bronze relay medals. Oleksiak’s break-through performances helped Canada earn its largest Summer Olympic Games medal haul ever.
Now nearly 4 years later, a more mature and experienced Oleksiak is among those elite athletes dealing with a delayed Olympic Games, now scheduled for July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking with TSN this week, Oleksiak said regarding the postponement, “At first it was a little difficult to change my mindset because it was a couple of weeks out from trials when we found out we weren’t going to go to the Olympics this year. So, I was a little upset, because I was so focused on it and put everything into it,” she said.
“I literally lived, breathed…for swimming and the Olympics so I was a little disappointed. But it gave me a chance to learn from whatever mistakes I made from last year and perfect it for next year.
“I kind of pulled back on my training a little bit. I used to do spin classes. I used to do one-on-one CrossFit classes … just to get extra activity in and I think, as the years went on and as I got older my body changed and I pulled back on that a little bit,” she said.
“I’m looking to get more into that before the Olympics and taking up more spin classes, doing more one-on-one CrossFit classes and everything like that. Going into the next Olympics, I really want to be better with that and getting in as much exercise as I can and kind of taking every opportunity I can to get better.”
Part of that ‘getting better’ process is seeking out the informed opinions of others, to the tune of the most decorated Olympian of all-time, American Michael Phelps. The pair met briefly at the 2016 Olympics, but have stayed in touch thereafter.
Oleksiak says she sometimes reaches out to the father of 3 with, ‘Hey, how do you feel about this? Would you do this? Should I do this?’ and see how he feels about it. He’s really helpful. I can literally call him any day and he’s very easy with it.”
According to TSN, Phelps recently recommended the book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, by Eckhart Tolle to the Canadian teenager.
“It teaches you to be more present in your everyday life and not worry so much about the future, the past and what’s going to happen, and just taking advantage of everything you can right now,” Oleksiak said. “It’s super awesome and it really changed my perspective on a lot of things. I’ve talked to Michael about it and it has eased a lot of anxiety that I had about things in the future.”
Even as a gold medalist herself, Oleksiak admits to still ‘fangirling’ a bit when speaking wth the GOAT. “If he ever compliments me or anything like that I’m still like, ‘Oh my goodness, I can’t believe Michael Phelps just complimented me.’ I definitely take his opinions to heart and, I mean, he’s awesome to go to.”
You can read the TSN article in its entirety here.