Gwangju - Canada's
Penny Oleksiak insists she has finally left the "weirdness" of
capturing Olympic swimming gold at the tender age of 16 after finally
recovering from a lengthy Rio hangover.
Oleksiak, who is preparing for the world championships which begin in
South Korea this weekend, stunned the sport when she dead-heated
American Simone Manuel in the women's 100 metres freestyle final as a
The Canadian also came away from Rio with a silver medal in the 100m
butterfly and two relay bronzes but has struggled to replicate that form
"It was definitely a massive learning experience," Oleksiak told AFP after training in Gwangju.
"It was just so different to what most 16-year-olds would have to
deal with," she added, attempting to explain her difficulties over the
last two years.
"At the same time I had normal 16-year-old things to do, so it was a
lot of weird circumstances put together at once and I wasn't expecting
any of it."
However, Oleksiak has been able to compartmentalise swimming from her
private life since the Olympics and maintains that the experience
toughed her up.
"I had to mature quickly," said the Toronto native, set to contest the 50m butterfly and the 100m and 200m freestyle in Gwangju.
"I'm still 19, I'm a kid. But I'm always going to be grateful for
what happened at the Olympics and looking back I wouldn't change it for
"I don't really put any pressure on myself and neither do my family
or friends. I really don't have any complaints with how my last three
years have gone."
With the likes of Manuel,
Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom, Australian Cate Campbell and American Katie
Ledecky lurking in her freestyle events, Oleksiak will need to
rediscover the magic, and quickly, in Korea.
"I'm feeling pretty confident," she said. "But they've always been
tough events and it's a big field of really competitive girls."
Oleksiak has been eclipsed since Rio by countrywoman Taylor Ruck, who
scooped a record eight medals at a breakout Commonwealth Games on
Australia's Gold Coast last year, including gold in the 200m free.
The 19-year-old backed that up by winning the 200m free at the Pan
Pacific championships in Tokyo, venue for next year's 2020 Olympics.
"Last year definitely helped with my maturity and confidence," said
Ruck, who can no longer fly under the radar after her rapid rise in
"It definitely got the momentum rolling but I honestly haven't
noticed anything different. I just kind of go about my life as I usually
Ruck, who slurps a cheeky espresso before races, admits she has had
to cut down on her screen time in the run-up to the world championships.
"I've been deleting Instagram on and off so that's helpful and keeps me more engaged in real life," she grinned.
"I can turn a blind eye to whatever I need to. Not paying attention
to outside stuff keeps me humble, keeps me engaged and keeps me focused
on what I need to do."