Barnes: Swimmer Penny Oleksiak navigated some rough water to become happier athlete and person

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It was late July 2018 and Penny Oleksiak needed a mental reset, not a trip to the Pan Pacific Championships, for which she had just qualified during trials in Edmonton.

So the Toronto-based swimmer who burst onto the scene so famously at the Rio Olympics two years earlier sought out Swimming Canada’s high performance director John Atkinson. She had a request, a plan and a definite need.

“It was obvious to me at that point that she did need a break,” Atkinson said. “She needed to take that time to be ready to re-commit in September of 2018 to rejoining the high performance centre in Ontario.

“I think that was a turning point. That was a critical moment and we supported her. To me it was clear that was needed. It was never a doubt. We needed to support a young person who is such a great talent and such a great athlete for Canada.

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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