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 in Calgary.
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.