Penny Oleksiak is today Canada's most decorated Olympian with seven medals.
While the acronym GOAT (greatest of all time) has become pretty common, WOAT is relatively unknown. Canadian Olympic swimming star Penny Oleksiak reserved the term Worst Of All Time for one of her old high school teachers "who constantly dragged me down." It's certainly not a tag you want attached to your name but Oleksiak made sure of that after winning one silver and two bronze medals in the Tokyo Olympics. The teacher reportedly told her to quit swimming, telling her it wouldn't get her anywhere. Oleksiak definitely derived motivation from proving the high-school teacher wrong and is now Canada's most decorated Olympian with seven medals, reported The Huffington Post. Not to mention that she's just 21. Oleksiak won silver in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and bronze in the 200-meter freestyle and 4x100-meter medley relay at the Tokyo Olympics while winning four medals in Rio five years ago. She won gold in the 100-meter freestyle, silver in the 100-meter butterfly, and bronze in the 4x100-meter and 4x200-meter freestyle relays.
Oleksiak threw shade at her old teacher on Twitter, writing, "I just googled ‘Canada’s most decorated Olympian’ and my name came up. I want to thank that teacher in high school who told me to stop swimming to focus on school because swimming wouldn’t get me anywhere. This is what dreams are made of.” It appears she wasn't the only one discouraged by the teacher. A Paralympic athlete wrote in the comments that she was discouraged as well. "Same teacher who did not let me participate in gym class. Then I went to the Paralympics. Way to go Penny," wrote Erica Shaff. Journalist Louise Martin chimed in as well, writing, "Maybe, it was the same teacher who told me to give up my dream of being a journalist because it was too competitive! Congratulations Penny."
I just googled “Canada’s most decorated Olympian” and my name came up. I want to thank that teacher in high school who told me to stop swimming to focus on school bc swimming wouldn’t get me anywhere. This is what dreams are made of.— Penny Oleksiak (@OleksiakPenny) August 3, 2021
Some teachers opened up about the importance of nurturing the passions of children. "As a grade 8-12 teacher, I tell my students all the time that high school is NOT the be-all and end-all, that they can apply to uni as a mature student (if they want) and their HS grades won't matter. I tell them to find their passion. Not all teachers are dream-crushers," wrote a teacher, while another added that there has been a shift in teacher's attitudes. "Congrats on your amazing achievements! As a teacher, I am disappointed that you had to experience that kind of negative direction. I can honestly say the teachers I know are always encouraging children to follow their dreams (but I teach very young students)," she wrote.
As a teacher, I really hate when other teachers say things like that to their students. School isn't the only thing that's important!— Kev (@KevBot_MTG) August 3, 2021
We're all so proud of you, Penny! And, hopefully, that teacher feels a little silly right now.
Some even misconstrued that the athlete was throwing shade at all teachers despite Oleksiak specifically listing out her personal experience with one high-school teacher. "I'm certain there were a few teachers who supported your extracurricular activities wholeheartedly; also, Coaches are teachers, too, and where would you be without them? Just saying," wrote one person. Another echoed a similar sentiment despite having no context of who Oleksiak was referring to. "I am betting that teacher had your best interest at heart and is completely proud of your accomplishment. Too bad you had to throw him or her under the bus... takes away from your success and any respect I would have had for you," wrote Carrie Martinez. Surely, Canada’s most decorated Olympian doesn't need validation from Twitter user Carrie Martinez. For that, she has seven medals.
Also in reference to my last tweet no shade at all towards teachers in general, my sister is a teacher and I see her inspiring kids everyday.. Most of my teachers saw the vision and pushed me towards it. That one who constantly dragged me down though,, WOAT.— Penny Oleksiak (@OleksiakPenny) August 3, 2021
Despite making it evident that the post was aimed at just her high school teacher, Oleksiak still clarified her comments. "No shade at all towards teachers in general. That one who constantly dragged me down though, WOAT," she wrote damningly. She got support online, with one person writing, "Our teachers need to be dream enablers, not dream killers. Especially when drive and talent are obvious. My 6-year-old daughter who suffers from Autism has sat in front of the Olympics since they started. She’s inspired. Thank you for showing our girls the way."