Swim of the Week: Penny Oleksiak’s 52.89 In 100 Free

Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

In nearly five years since winning the 2016 Olympics in the 100 free, Penny Oleksiak has had plenty of ups and downs.

In 2016, she went 52.70 to tie for that Olympic title. In 2017, she was 52.94, but missed the World Championships medals in 6th place. In 2018, she fell to just 53.85 for her season-best, placing 5th at Commonwealth Games and not competing at Pan Pacs. In 2019, she went just 53.60, scratching out of the World Championships field in the event.

The arrow certainly wasn’t trending in the right direction for the first athlete born in the 2000s ever to win Olympic gold.

But Oleksiak has rocketed back in a big way. In 2020, she went 53.41 in-season before the coronavirus pandemic shut down competition for a significant period. Then this week at Canadian Olympic Trials, Oleksiak crushed a 52.89 to win the 100 free, setting herself up for an Olympic gold defense with the #4 time in the world this year.

Top 100 freestylers – 2020-2021 season

  1. Emma McKeon (AUS) – 52.19
  2. Cate Campbell (AUS) – 52.43
  3. Madi Wilson (AUS) – 52.76
  4. Penny Oleksiak (CAN) – 52.89
  5. Zhang Yufei (CHN) – 52.90

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Yozhik
2 months ago

I like her reaction to the results of final race at 100FR in Rio. In contrast to Manuel who saw that she surpassed Cate Campble, Penny Oleksiak had no clue where she was at the race and didn’t even look at the scoreboard immediately after finish. She was told that she’s won. Her “Oh my God!” with the smile was like “is it a joke?” There was no emotional outburst. It was like “if my 52.7 won the gold medal then let it be :)”

Sub13
2 months ago

It hurts to see Madi Wilson having the 3rd fastest swim in the world and not qualifying for an individual event. She would be the fastest swimmer in any other country in the world.

SBOmega
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

This was McKeon for years when she was swimming 52s behind the Campbell sisters

Sub13
Reply to  SBOmega
2 months ago

Was Emma ever ranked 3rd in the world and failed to be selected for an event though? Even so, she’s had an individual event at every Olympics/WC/Pan Pacs since 2015.

She must be one of the best swimmers ever to never win an individual gold at Olympics/WC/Pan Pacs right?

Corn Pop
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

As would Meg.

Sub13
Reply to  Corn Pop
2 months ago

Meg who?

Robbos
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

Meg Harris 52.92, Australia’s 4th swimmer.

Sub13
Reply to  Robbos
2 months ago

Oh right. That’s not correct though is it? Meg wouldn’t be top of Canada, China or HK (but she would have qualified for them).

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

Zhang Yufei isn’t swimming the 100 free individually as the semi is in the same session as the 200 fly final. Her 52.90 was a heat swim she did for relay consideration before scratching the semi. Yang Junxuan went on to win the final in 53.21, so Harris would’ve been 1st in china. She also would’ve been equal first in hong kong as she’s tied with Haughey in the rankings

Last edited 2 months ago by Old Man Chalmers
Sub13
Reply to  Old Man Chalmers
2 months ago

Ok that’s pretty impressive. If Australia loses the 4×100 after that I don’t know what I’ll do with myself.

John26
Reply to  Old Man Chalmers
2 months ago

Is it confirmed that Zhang isn’t swimming the 100free in Tokyo?

Aquajosh
2 months ago

I don’t see how this doesn’t belong to Summer McIntosh for her 1:56.19 200 free though. At 14 years old, she swam the fastest 15&under time ever, and for context would have beaten Allison Schmitt for the second spot in the 200 free at US Trials by half a second.

Jane
Reply to  Aquajosh
2 months ago

read disclaimer

Yozhik
Reply to  Aquajosh
2 months ago

During this Olympic season it as all about global achievements. It isn’t a contest of who is the youngest Olympian or who was faster in kindergarten. Penny Oleksiak’s time can put her in the Olympic final. Summer McIntosh will not go father than semis at 200FR.

Gen D
Reply to  Yozhik
2 months ago

And also a feel-good “comeback” story from someone who has struggled in the past few years

canadaman11
Reply to  Yozhik
2 months ago

I bet McIntosh does make the 200m free final.

Canuswim
Reply to  Aquajosh
2 months ago

Both had great swims, but agree was not an obvious choice for SOW. We have yet to see Mcintosh’s improvement in 100, but if anything close to 200 + a bit more growing, could be very interesting in the years to come.

Yozhik
2 months ago

I was almost certain that of these two champions – Oleksjak and Manuel – the former was just at the beginning of the incredible progress curve and the later would bounce back from this huge jump in personal best as it had already happened once in her career. But everything has happened quite an opposite way. I am very glad to see Penny Oleksjak in a good form again.

Bruh
2 months ago

Her and big mac(Neil) are some of the few foreigners I am rooting for along with seto, chalmers, and Scott

Jane
Reply to  Bruh
2 months ago

‘big’ mac(Neil)? she’s 5’6″ but an amazing swimmer

Bruh
Reply to  Jane
2 months ago

Omg, her underwaters!

Eric the Eel > Michael Phelps
2 months ago

I love you Penny

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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