2023 WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Canada will be missing its most decorated Olympian at this summer’s World Championships, as Penny Oleksiak has withdrawn from the competition due to injury.
Oleksiak announced Thursday that she won’t compete in Fukuoka and is instead opting to focus on continuing to rehab her left knee after undergoing surgery last August in addition to dealing with an unrelated left shoulder injury sustained more recently.
At that meet, she raced in the heats of the women’s 50 free (26.44), 100 free (56.08) and 50 fly (27.35), well outside of what she would typically produce at an in-season competition.
“Swimming at Mare Nostrum was a checkpoint for worlds and I gave it my best shot,” Oleksiak said in a statement. “We reviewed my swims there and it showed me the level I want to get back to. Now I need to focus on my rehab to get back to where I want to be and put myself in position to be at my best next season.”
Despite not competing at the Canadian Swim Trials in March, Oleksiak was among 31 swimmers named to the Canadian 2023 World Championship team, as was Taylor Ruck, who also didn’t race and is currently dealing with a broken hand.
Oleksiak’s coach at the High Performance Centre – Ontario in Toronto, Ryan Mallette, said they concluded she would not be back at her best in time for Worlds, which kick off on July 23 in Fukuoka, Japan.
“The bar that we set was, can she be as good as she’s ever been at these world championships? We just don’t feel like we’re going to be ready to be 100 percent yet this summer,” Mallette said. “Our focus is to get her back to 100 percent as soon as possible to get ready for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“Penny has done absolutely everything she can to recover and be ready to go this summer. Unfortunately, due to the timing we just aren’t ready to get there yet.”
High Performance Director John Atkinson added: “This allows her to put in place a more specific plan for rehab and training to put her in position to be ready to embark on the next season,” Atkinson said. “Penny is a world-class athlete. Swimming Canada and our High Performance Centre staff are going to work with Penny’s team to put together a bespoke plan for Penny that can help her come back ready for next season.”
Oleksiak is Canada’s most decorated Olympian in history, having won seven medals across the Rio and Tokyo Games, including tying with American Simone Manuel for individual gold in the women’s 100 freestyle in 2016.
Oleksiak, who was 16 at the time, also won silver individually in the 100 fly and added a pair of relay medals in Rio, and followed up five years later by winning three medals in Tokyo, including individual bronze in the 200 free.
At the World Aquatics Championships, Oleksiak holds the distinction of being Canada’ most decorated swimmer ever with nine medals, though they all come from relays.
Individually, she finished fourth in the 100 free at the 2022 championships in Budapest, and in the 200 free, she was disqualified in the semi-finals for a false start.
In 2019, she placed sixth in the 200 free and 50 fly, having withdrawn from the 100 free, and in her Worlds debut in 2017, she was fourth in the 100 fly, fifth in the 50 fly and sixth in the 100 free.
With Oleksiak having dropped out and Ruck’s status in question for the World Championships, Canada’s once-stacked relay depth is dwindling for Fukuoka, especially with another mainstay on previous teams, Kayla Sanchez, changing her sporting citizenship to the Philippines last year.