Penny Heyns (RSA)
2007 Honor Swimmer
FOR THE RECORD: 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: competitor; 1996
OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke); 2000
OLYMPIC GAMES: bronze (100m breaststroke); FOURTEEN WORLD
RECORDS: (2-50m breaststroke, 5-100m breaststroke, 4-200m breaststroke,
1-50m breaststroke (sc), 2-100m breaststroke (sc); 1994 COMMONWEALTH
GAMES: bronze (100m breaststroke).
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Penny Heyns made
Olympic swimming history when she became the first woman to
win both the 100 meter and 200 meter breaststroke events at the
same Olympic Games. She is also the only woman to hold as many
as 14 World Records in breaststroke events and to hold all three
breaststroke World Records simultaneously: the 50, 100 and 200
meter long course. She is the only swimmer to have broken a total
of four individual World Records in one competition and she did it
twice in 1999 in Los Angeles and Sydney. In Durban, she broke
two short course World Records in one hour. At the 2000 Sydney
Olympic Games, she competed in her third Olympics winning the
bronze medal in the 100 meter breaststroke.
As a latecomer to the sport at age 14, Penny knew nothing about Olympic
competition as South Africa had been banned from the Olympic Games.
With the ban lifted in 1992, she qualified as the youngest member of the
team (17 yrs), competing in Barcelona and finishing 33rd and 34th in the
breaststroke events. She then set her sights on Atlanta 1996 where she
became the first Olympic gold medalist for South Africa in the post-apartheid
era since Joan Harrison had won the 100m backstroke 44 years
earlier in Helsinki.
Penny is a graduate of Amanzimtoti
High School in Kwazulu-Natal
Province and attended college at the
University of Nebraska in the USA
where she was an NCAA National
Champion in the 200m breaststroke. She also trained with her coach Jan Bidrmen
Penny was named by Swimming World Magazine as the Female World Swimmer of
the Year in 1996 and 1999. She has served as a member of the FINA Athletes
Commission and currently is a business woman, motivational and public speaker
and television presenter.