penny heyns, olympics

Where is Olympic swimmer Penny Heyns now?
Images via Greg Wood, AFP/ Instagram: @penny_heyns

SA’s Olympic golden girl: Where is Penny Heyns now? [photos]

Penny Heyns made history at the Summer Olympics almost 30 years ago. Where is SA’s golden girl swimmer today?

penny heyns, olympics

Where is Olympic swimmer Penny Heyns now?
Images via Greg Wood, AFP/ Instagram: @penny_heyns

Almost three decades ago, South African swimmer Penelope “Penny” Heyns made history at the Summer Olympics in the US with her phenomenal sporting achievements. But where is the country’s “golden girl” today?

Last week, team SA named their squad of swimmers set to represent the country at the Summer Olympics in France in July. They include world champions Tatjana Schoenmaker, Chase Le Clos, Matt Sates and Pieter Coetzé.


In 1996, Penny Heyns became the only woman in history to win the 100m and 200m breaststroke race at the Summer Olympics. The Springs-born swimmer became South Africa’s first gold medallist post-apartheid after a sporting ban.

Amazingly, Penny broke 14 world records during her professional career, which ended in 2001 when she officially retired.

She is the only swimmer in history to break long-course world records in the 50m, 100m, and 200m.

Penny was named the Female World Swimmer of the Year in 1996 and 1999 as honoured by Swimming World.

Penny Heyns began swimming professionally at age 12 after her family relocated to Durban.

She told IOL: “I believe that our talents are God-given. One day I would have to stand before the Lord and answer for the talent that I was given. I wanted to answer and say that I did my best with my talent. So that is what really got me into swimming”.

Five years after retiring, Penny Heyns became the inaugural inductee into the South African Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. A year later, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida, US. In 2012, she became the first non-field female athlete to be inducted into the Africa Sports Hall of Fame.


Since retiring from competing in 2001, Penny Heyns has taken active role as a coach to young swimmers. She’s also tried her hand at motivational speaking, TV presenting and being a businesswoman.

She told GSport of being behind the scenes: “When I approach the coaching aspect, I’m not really thinking of leadership. What I am thinking about is the individual I’m working with. 

“What’s really important is how you use that platform to make a lasting impact in that person’s life, to make them successful in life, not just as an athlete per se.”


Speaking to the Independent On Saturday, Penny Heyns claimed that she was confident that team South Africa would dominate the Summer Olympics in July.

“I think we can expect that going into the Olympics there will be a number of our athletes swimming in the finals and on the podium. I think our swimmers are doing well.”