Canada’s Class Act

16-year-old Toronto teen Penny Oleksiak already owns two Olympic medals in Rio… Her older brother Jamie is in the NHL, a defensive beast for the Dallas Stars… Making the proud Oleksiak clan Canada’s new first family of sport…

Alison and Richard Oleksiak have done something right. And that goes well beyond granting their children with some serious genes. Mom was a swimmer, dad was a Hall of Fame high school athlete growing up in Buffalo. Penny is the youngest of four, and it’s taken a couple Olympic medals for her to claim the title of best athlete in the family.

Of course, she’s also laid claim to perhaps being called the best athlete in all of Canada right about now. But let’s talk family first. Here’s what it looks like to watch your daughter win Olympic silver.

On night two of Olympic swimming in Rio, Oleksiak raced to that silver in the 100 fly, in a World Junior Record. One night earlier, she anchored Canada’s bronze medal winning relay in the women’s 4×100 free. It was Team Canada’s first Olympic relay medley since Mark Tewsbury led the Canadian men to medley relay bronze back in 1992 in Barcelona. It was Canada’s first women’s relay medal since the boycotted 1984 L.A. Games, when the women won bronze in the medley.

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The Brand of a Club

Three years ago, the Curl-Burke swim club was rebranded in the wake of Rick Curl’s sexual abuse disgrace… Today, the renamed Nations Capital Swim Club is the number one ranked club team in America, led by Katie Ledecky. While the old name has been erased from record, the legacy of excellence never skipped a stroke. Thanks, in large part, to the club’s owner and CEO, Tom Ugast…

He stood up there at the height of his profession. On a fine recent Sunday evening in Los Angeles, Bruce Gemmell received his third straight Golden Goggles award, as the Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year. He’s Katie Ledecky’s coach, after all, and whoever’s coaching that girl is doing something right. But behind the podium, delivering remarks filled with his usual humility and selflessness, Gemmell stood for a lot more than Ledecky’s leader.

Here was the guy who represented the Nations Capital Swim Club – the one that not so long ago was called Curl-Burke – and it was hard to envision a figure you’d rather have leading your organization. Gemmell oozes integrity. Some people have that way about them, you can smell it a mile away. Some pretend to, some puff out the chest and say all the right things, deliver all the right results, but you can sense something off underneath.

The parents and swimmers of Nations Capital should know. The guy who used to run the place was like that. Rick Curl could coach, no one ever begrudged him that, but as a man there was a fatal secret. This was a man who sexually abused a 13-year-old girl, when he was 33. A guy who got away with it too, for years, despite widespread whispers, until the culture finally caught up to the outrage his crimes deserved. Now Curl is serving seven years in prison, his name verboten on pool decks. Yet somehow the club he founded 37 years ago never missed a beat.

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Michael Andrew Becomes a Man

The greatest age grouper in history ages up to the big leagues…

For most teenagers, turning fifteen is a bit of a shrug. It’s a birthday before the big one, the one that comes with driving privileges and all that open road freedom of the imagination. But for swimmers, aging up to fifteen is a passage into adulthood. From that point forward, you’re no longer an age grouper, cozily collected into comfortable age brackets at most meets. At every meet from here on out, now you have to race with the big boys, age be damned.

Last Friday, April 18th, Michael Andrew celebrated his 15th birthday. However, thanks to a clause in the swimming rule book that stipulates that your age when a swim meet starts is the age you will be, for record-keeping purposes, throughout the competition, Andrew had one last shot to shatter a few more National Age Group records. He did. Of course, he did; for the last few months it feels like the kid has crushed another NAG record every time he touches water. His last one may have been the most jaw-dropping of all: 46.95 in the 100 fly. Sweet Jesus.

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Biondi, But Better

Meet Caleb Dressel, the next great American sprinter…

He’s always been the fastest. Every year, since he was 11-years-old, he’s been the fastest 50 freestyler in America for his age. Click through USA Swimming’s Top 16 Archive and see for yourself. At 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, there’s Caleb Dressel at the top of the 50 rankings, the fastest boy in the land. Now he’s 16, and he’s not just the fastest among his peers, he’s accelerated into a new orbit. No 16-year-old has ever been faster.

Caleb Dressel’s times last week in Irvine, CA at the Speedo Junior National Championships make one thing very clear: In three years, this is a kid who is going to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in Rio. He’ll be 19 then; the same age as Anthony Ervin back when he won gold in the 50 at the 2000 Sydney Games. Dressel could do the same in Rio.

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The Boy in the Bubble

Michael Andrew, child swim star… A “pro” at age 14…

I always followed the kid by the numbers, the times. Those cartoon crazy swims he posted when he was 10, 11, 12, 13, and now 14 – they’ve always been eye-popping. I didn’t know anything else about him, but the numbers were enough. He was a swimmer on the rise. Perhaps the Next One. Maybe in our desperate, impatient search for the next Phelps, the kid was already upon us. Maybe Michael Andrew will go on to win nine gold medals at some far off Games and make Michael the official sacred name of swimming royalty. Maybe he will… but let’s hold up for a second: He hasn’t done anything yet.

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Kids These Days

Forget the NCAA champs, this has been the finest month in age group swimming history…

The man knows a few things about fast age groupers. After all, he’s the coach of the greatest college recruit ever. That would be Missy Franklin. And the man in question, of course, would be Todd Schmitz. Earlier this week, Coach Schmitz made this observation on Twitter: I bet last week was the fastest week in age group swimming ever in the USA. Look how many NAGs went down.

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