• By: Dave Gross

July’s been a family affair for Toronto siblings

ABOVE: Penny Oleksiak and her brother Jamie Oleksiak (Photos: courtesyMacleans.ca and Getty Images).

Pretty uneventful July if you’re last name is Oleksiak.

Nope. Nothing to see here.

Dull as dishwater; yawn-inducing as a Ken Dryden speech.

Yup – just a cascade of Olympic medals and new Summer Games record to go along with an enormous NHL contract with the league’s newest and most anticipated franchise.

Such is life in the Oleksiak home, where, if you’re under six-feet tall, you’re an anomaly.

Both siblings, 21-year-old Penny (6-foot-1) and 28-year-old Jamie (6-foot-7) have had a month to remember. For many Canadians dealing with the – hopefully – final stages of what seems and feels like 10 years of isolation and mark-wearing, the Oleksiaks, particularly Penny, have given us lots to smile about.

And loads to talk about.

It’s almost as if a sports headline did not include the word ‘Oleksiak’ in it in July, it was toward the back pages.

The Toronto duo have become instant stars. This especially holds true for folks like me, who are stuck at home most nights and days waiting for the world to open up again.

"I just love the Olympics," Penny Oleksiak said to reporters this week in Tokyo. "I think they're so fun. Just knowing the whole world is watching is super crazy."


We’re watching.

Probably a lot of us were tuned in late night on Thursday to watch Penny attempt to defend the gold medal she won in the women's 100-metre freestyle in Rio in 2016.

She was a little bit slow out of the gate and was just squeezed out of a medal, finishing fourth (she did set a new Canadian record in the event though).

Earlier at these Games, Penny had won silver as part of the women's 4×100 freestyle relay team on Sunday. She also took a bronze in the women's 200-metre freestyle, that on Wednesday. In Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Penny won four medals to add to the haul and take over as Canada’s most decorated summer Olympian.

"I'm just really happy to finally be here and get to race and get medals," Oleksiak said. "I love pressure a little bit, I guess. When I know it counts, I know I'm able to kind of show up for it."

"I love stepping up to the occasion," Oleksiak told CBC Sports. "Being able to step up on the world stage when everyone is watching is very exciting. It's just awesome to be part of Team Canada."

After the Rio Games, she was handed the nickname ‘Canada’s Golden Penny.’ (BTW, forgot who tweeted this gem out but the suggestion was made that Canada reinstitute to long-lost penny and put her image on it. Solid idea.)

After her four medals in Rio, Penny was Canada’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremonies. Later on she took home the Lou Marsh Award as Canada’s top athlete of the year.

As for (in more ways than one) big brother Jamie, the spotlight for an excited and hockey-hungry west coast was right on him.

Jamie was an easy selection for the expansion Seattle Kraken to make in their inaugural draft.

The blueliner came into his own last season –  his ninth in the big circuit – refining a sometimes bumpy and inconsistent game into a steady and tough one with the Dallas Stars. He tallied six goals and added eight assists in 56 games during the just completed 2020-21 season.

A pending free agent, Jamie immediately signed a five-year, $23 million US contract with Seattle.

"It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up on,” Jamie Oleksiak told Sportsnet on his decision.

“For Kraken fans, thanks for the reception, I’m excited to be here. It’s exciting here in Seattle. There’s so much to take in and learn and I’m looking forward to getting the season started and see the atmosphere in the rink.”

Oleksiak will likely slot in as a top-pairing defenceman with the Kraken. He’ll also be counted on for leadership.

What the public can certainly count on is a July to remember for a Toronto family and an entire country in search of good news and happier days.