Penny Heyns

As the world’s greatest female breaststroker of the 20th century, Penny Heyns’s experiences have given her unparalleled insights into what it takes to get to the top, and more importantly, how to stay there. She shares with her audiences the lessons she learned, both while training internationally in the US and Canada and while competing at the forefront of international competition.

Penny has addressed hundreds of South African and African audiences in countries including Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Mozambique. Further afield, her message has been acclaimed in the USA, Canada, Australia, Sri-Lanka, Dubai, Qatar and Switzerland
As an international swimmer, Penny became the only woman in Olympic history to win both the 100 and 200 metre breaststroke events in Atlanta 1996 and bronze in Sydney 2000. She also broke a total of 14 individual world records during her career. She is also the only breaststroker, male or female, in the history of swimming, to hold the then long course world records in all three possible distances, namely the 50m, 100 and 200m events.

In 2006, Penny Heyns become an inaugural inductee into the South African ‘Sports Hall of Fame’. The following year, she became the first non-track and field female athlete to be inducted into the ‘Africa Sports Hall of Fame’. Also in 2007, she joined elite international icons such as Johnny Weissmuller – better known as the original Tarzan – and Mark Spitz, when she was inducted into the prestigious ‘International Swimming Hall of Fame’ in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA.

Penny returned to the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, in the capacity of Fina Athletes’ Committee Chairperson and Bureau Member. This marked the first time that Penny had set foot back on an Olympic pool deck since her retirement after the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

She feels extremely blessed to have personally watched the amazing achievements of Tatjana Schoenmaker, as she became the first South African female swimmer to win Olympic Gold in 24 years, since Penny’s double Gold swims in Atlanta 1996. She also witnessed the euphoria of the behind-the-scenes post-race action and was reminded of just what Tatjana’s Gold medal success meant for Tatjana’s future.
Penny brings a dynamic, powerful message of hope, inspiration and self-empowerment which demonstrate just what is possible when individuals make the decision to take control of their lives and their often-untapped potential which enables them to fulfil their material and spiritual destinies.

Mark Twain once said: “It takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” While even the most gifted presenter has to work at it, some are naturals at the lectern,  with the ability to quickly capture the crowd’s attention and leave a lasting impression on every audience member. Penny is one such speaker.