Canada's Oleksiak hopes to return at 2024 Paris Olympics
TORONTO — Penny Oleksiak still hopes to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The seven-time Olympic medallist withdrew from the world swimming championships on June 1 due to injury. She said that she was originally sidelined after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in her knee but then suffered a compensatory injury to her shoulder.
It was the neurological issue with her shoulder that forced her to miss the world championships after competing in the Barcelona leg of the Mare Nostrum tour in May.
"It's definitely just been a year of learning and it's been fun to learn about my body and learn how to heal it quicker and everything," said Oleksiak on Wednesday. "I'm just overcoming that injury now and slowly getting back into training and then leading up to 2024."
Oleksiak made the comments at Collision, a tech conference in downtown Toronto, during an onstage talk at Exhibition Place before hundreds of spectators.
The 22-year-old swimmer said that, because she had never been injured before, she didn't fully understand the rehabilitation process following her surgery. That included nine pool sessions per week, as well as Pilates and strength training as soon as she was cleared following her knee surgery.
"I think growing up I was always so scared to miss swim meets and to just miss out on those things," said Oleksiak. "I thought you had to go to every single one and at a certain point it did wear me down a bit.
"I went through a pretty difficult time period in just feeling a lot of pressure but I think over the last year I've really just learned that I'm a person outside of swimming."
She said that being physically sidelined meant that she's had to explore her interests outside of athletics and it's led to her becoming a more well-rounded person.
"I've been able to be in so many incredible rooms and talk to so many incredible people and experienced so many things that I've really learned that I have an insane amount of interests outside of swimming," said Oleksiak. "But also, just the resilience and the strength that it takes to come back from injury and just the patience is insane.
"I didn't realize you needed this much patience to get there," she added with a laugh.
Oleksiak won four medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and three more at the Tokyo Games in 2021.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 28, 2023.