TOKYO — Canada's women capped Olympic swimming with a bronze medal in the medley relay Sunday and produced a historic seventh career medal for Penny Oleksiak.
Kyle Masse of LaSalle, Ont., Sydney Pickrem of Clearwater, Fla., Maggie Mac Neil of London, Ont., and Toronto's Oleksiak touched in 3:52.60, a Canadian record.
Australia took gold with an Olympic-record 3:51.60. The Americans were close behind, finishing second in 3:51.73.
Oleksiak swam the anchor freestyle leg into the history books as the most decorated Olympian in Canadian history. The 21-year-old surpassed speedskater Cindy Klassen and speedskater-cyclist Clara Hughes at six medals apiece.
"Knowing that I have the best girls in the world to race with, I pretty much had a medal in the back of my mind the whole race," Oleksiak said. "I'm racing with three of the best swimmers in the world, so why should I worry?"
The achievement says a lot about Oleksiak's depth of talent, said Marnie McBean, Canada's chef de mission.
"Winning one medal is hard, and multiple at one Games is all about the ability to reset and focus. Winning multiple medals at multiple Games — that is a battle against so much more," McBean, a three-time Olympian, said in a statement.
"The notion of repeating and the burden of expectations, internally and externally, can be so disruptive. Penny figured out how to thrive all while being an amazing role model to young Canadians."
Masse led Canada off in backstroke followed by Pickrem's breaststroke leg and Mac Neil in butterfly.
As Mac Neil hung the medal around Oleksiak’s neck during the medal ceremony, Masse applauded and Pickrem shimmied in celebration.
"Most decorated," they chorused during post-ceremony interviews with reporters.
Oleksiak, Mac Neil and Masse claimed their third medals at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.
Mac Neil, 21, also captured 100-metre butterfly gold. She and Oleksiak took silver in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay on the first day of finals, so Mac Neil leaves Tokyo with a complete set.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept Canada's swim team out of the water for large chunks of the last 15 months. Mac Neil said that didn't stop the swimmers from challenging the world in Tokyo.
"We've had one of the strictest lockdowns in the entire world, so it was just putting in the training that we've doing for the last 15 months in and showing the world what we have," Mac Neil said.
Masse, 25, earned a pair of silver in backstroke. Oleksiak, who revealed Sunday she'd been dealing with an ongoing back injury, also claimed bronze in the 200-metre freestyle.
The women's swim team amassed six medals in Tokyo to equal its Rio count of five years ago.
Taylor Ruck of Kelowna, B.C., Pickrem, Mac Neil and Toronto's Kayla Sanchez posted the fastest qualification time in Friday's heats to give Canada a middle lane Sunday.
The medley relay medal was Canada's first since 1988 and fourth in the 61-year Olympic history of race. Canadian women were bronze medallists in 1976, 1984 and '88.
Oleksiak won 100-freestyle gold, 100-butterfly silver and anchored Canada to a pair of freestyle relay bronze medals at age 16 in Rio.
Heats, semifinals, finals and relays added up to 10 races over nine days for Oleksiak in Tokyo, where she added a pair of relay medals and the 200 free bronze to her total.
Canada's men's team finished seventh in the medley relay just minutes after the women left the pool Sunday.
Markus Thormeyer (backstroke), Gabe Mastromatteo (breaststroke), Joshua Liendo (butterfly) and Yuri Kisil (freestyle) finished in 3:32.42.
The U.S. took gold in the men's event with a world record 3:26.78. Great Britain came second and Italy captured bronze.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 31, 2021.