World Swimmer of the Year - 1996, 1999
During the three decades from 1961 - 1991, when South African swimmers were barred from international competition the sport failed to maintain the levels set by Karen Muir and Ann Fairlie, with the exceptions of Jonty Skinner and Peter Williams setting world records. In 1992 the re-admission came as a surprise, and the performance of South African swimmers at the Olympics was not particularly impressive.
4 Years later it was a different story. Penny Heyns - a Natal south coast swimmer on scholarship at the University of Nebraska - the alma mater of Peter Williams - burst on the scene with a world record in the heats of 100m breaststroke at the South African Olympic trials at Kings Park in Durban. It came as a pleasant surprise to most of the spectators, but she had already set a new American Open and NCAA record earlier that year in mid-February, in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:08.90).
Click here to see Penny break a world record.
Penelope Heyns, South Africa’s swimming sensation, was born on the 8th of November 1974, in the Eastern Transvaal town of Springs. She started her schooling at Doon Heights Primary and then later attended Amanzimtoti High. She was an excellent school achiever academically and in athletics. In 1987 she became the swim team captain at school and this is when her interest in swimming grew.
In 1992, at the age of 17, she was the youngest member of the South African Olympic team to Barcelona. She did not win any medals but made enough of an impression to be offered a place with a swimming coach in Nebraska, where her coach was Cal Benz. While she was in Nebraska she decided to continue a tertiary education. She joined the University of Nebraska were she later achieved her Degree in Physchology.
She was also a member of the South African squad at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, where she won a bronze medal in the 200 m breaststroke event Heyns continued her swimming career and was asked to represent the USA in the Olympic games but she decided to not let her fellow South Africans down. She even got the tattoo of the Springbok on her shoulder.
In 1996 she represented South Africa at the Atlanta Olympics. She won both the 100m and 200m breaststroke event and this made her the only woman in the history of the Olympic games to do so.
During the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York, Heyns set the 50 m breaststroke world record, and in 1999, she set eleven world records in three months, swimming at events on three different continents. This made her the simultaneous holder of five out of the possible six breaststroke world records, a feat that had never been achieved before in the history of swimming.
She was named by Swimming World magazine as the Female World Swimmer of the Year in 1996 and 1999. She was also a member of the South African Olympic team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. She won a bronze medal in the 100 m breaststroke. In the year 2000 Penny announced her retirement from swimming.
Penny has been since traveling giving motivational talks encouraging people not to give up on their dreams.
Check out her website at http://www.pennyheyns.com/
Wêreldrekord vir Heyns
Die Burger 3 Maart 1996
DURBAN. Penny Heyns het gister met 'n blink wêreldrekord in die 100 borsslag slegs World Records geword wat dié prestasie kon behaal. Heyns het reeds in Augustus verlede jaar by die Wêreld Studente Spele in Fukuoka, Japan, gedreig om met die Australiër Samantha Riley se wêreldrekord van 1:07.69 klaar te speel toe sy binne 15 sekondes van dié rekord gedraai het. Maar eintlik wou sy die rekord voor haar tuisskare in Durban verbeter. En gister het sy in die gelaaide atmosfeer voor 'n fanatieke swemskare Riley se rekord met 'n tyd van 1:07.46 verpletter. Heyns was totaal en ingestel op dié rekord. Haar afrigter, Jan Biedeman, het haar uit Nebraska, waar sy die afgelope drie jaar studeer, vergesel om haar in haar aanslag op die rekord by te staan. En die 21-jarige boorling van Amazimtoti in Natal het hom én die skare nie teleurgestel nie. Heyns is slegs die vyfde Suid-Afrikaner om 'n wêreldrekord in die swembad te verbeter.
Ann Fairlie en Karen Muir het die wêreld se rugslag-toneel in die sestigerjare oorheers. Maar politieke isolasie sou weldra sy tol eis. R30000 ryker Vir haar moeite het Heyns R30000 ryker geword, danksy haar borg, Absa. Oor die volgende twaalf maande sal die borg haar elke keer soveel betaal, as sy weer 'n wêreldrekord laat spat. In 1976 het Jonty Skinner die kans ontneem om by die Olimpiese Spele in Montreal 'n aanslag op Olimpiese goud in die 100 vryslag en die wêreldrekord van Jim Montgomery te maak. Montgomery het in Montreal goud gewen en die eerste swemmer geword om die 100 vryslag in minder as 50 sekondes af te lê. Maar net meer as twee weke ná die Spele het Skinner die wêreldrekord in 'n manjifieke 49.44 verpletter.
Dieselfde lot het Peter Williams in 1988 getref. Williams, soos Skinner van die Oos-Kaap, het kort voor die Olimpiese Spele in Seoel die wêreldrekord in die 50 vryslag tot 22.18 verbeter. Die antagonasee jeens Suid-Afrika se apartheidspolitiek het in dié tydperk 'n hoogtepunt bereik en Williems se rekord, is anders as dié van Skinner, nie amptelik erken nie. Suid-Afrika het intussen sy muishond-beeld afgeskud en dis in internasionale waters dat Heyns tot dusver gefloreer het.