Teen swim sensation Penny Oleksiak mows down a pair of records at Olympic trials

By The Canadian Press
April 11, 2016 - 11:32am

TORONTO — Teen sensation Penny Oleksiak demolished both a national and world junior record en route to earning a third swim in Rio this summer.

The 15-year-old Torontonian claimed the women's 100-metre freestyle gold in 53.31 seconds during Saturday's trials for Canada's Olympic swim team.

Oleksiak erased the previous Canadian mark of 53.83 set in the same pool by Chantal Van Landeghem at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Oleksiak also beat the previous world junior record of 53.84 held by China's Shen Duo.

"Being able to get the world junior record means quite a bit to me," Oleksiak said.

The six-foot-one Oleksiak and the six-foot-three Van Landeghem duelled in adjoining lanes at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Winnipeg's Van Landeghem touched in 53.91 to put both women well under the time needed to qualify.

A top-two result combined with a time under an Olympic qualifying standard in a final is required to make the Olympic squad.

With one day of racing to go, 17 women and seven men have booked a berth to Brazil. The 2016 Olympic and Paralympic teams will be officially introduced after Sunday's finals.

Oleksiak, whose brother Jamie is a six-foot-eight Dallas Stars defenceman, also won the 100-metre butterfly and finished second in the 200 freestyle to fill her swim card for the Summer Games.

"The races that I have lined up is just going to be an exciting thing," Oleksiak said.

Van Landeghem, 22, didn't regret seeing her national record fall.

"Honestly not at all," she said. "Penny has been lighting it up this week. She destroyed it. It wasn't even close. She's such a great closer, so my goal going in was just to hang on as long as I could beside her."

Van Landeghem was touched and surprised after her race when she saw her father Wayne in the stands.

"I actually told him not to come, but now that he's here, it means the world to me," she said.

Sandrine Manville of Boucherville, Que., and Toronto's Michelle Williams placed third and fourth in the 100 freestyle respectively to earn relay spots.

Toronto's Brittany MacLean will swim three individual races plus a relay in Rio. After setting Canadian records in the 200-metre and 400-metre freestyle, MacLean was just shy of her own record in the 800 metres Saturday.

Her time of 8:21.40 was, however, the third-fastest in the world this year.

"Once you've raced a lot at a meet like this and it's so emotionally draining, you never really know what the last race is going to be like," MacLean said. "I wanted to post a really fast time and wanted it to rank me well in the world."

Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., and Toronto's Martha McCabe will represent Canada in the women's 200-metre breaststroke after placing first and second respectively. Smith also won the 100-metre event earlier in the week.

McCabe, 26, had a large orange-clad cheering section from her hometown. She placed fifth at the 2012 Summer Games in London, but didn't make the semifinals at last year's world championship.

"I'm near the end of my career, so if I don't make this team, it could be the end," McCabe said. "It was just so much work for me mentally to just fight and stay on it and go for it even when things weren't going so well."

It was a tough night for the men as none qualified out of the 100-metre butterfly or the 200-metre backstroke.

Santo Condorelli of Kelowna, B.C., the only male to post a qualifying time Saturday, was disqualified in the morning butterfly heats for not touching the wall simultaneously with both hands.

The Paralympic qualification process is different, but the swimmers will know by Sunday whether they'll be packing their bags for Brazil this summer. Swimmers in various para-swimming classifications race together.

Riley McLean of Burnaby, B.C., set a Canadian record in the S4 50-metre backstroke with a time of 57.88. Danial Murphy of Bedford, N.S., went 52.86 second to post a national record in the S5 classification.

Nicolas Turbide of Quebec City lowered the national record in the S13 100-metre backstroke to 1:00.31. Danielle Kisser of Delta, B.C., lowered her own record in the S6 100-metre backstroke by almost five-tenths of a second in the morning heats to 1:48.38.

The Rio Olympics are Aug. 5-21. The Rio Paralympics are Sept. 7-18.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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