Penelope Penny Heyns was born on 8 November 1974 in Springs, Gauteng Province. Heyns began swimming at a young age and displayed great skills. Her swimming was exceptional, securing her a bursary to study at the University of Nebraska in the United States.
In 1996, Heyns was part of Team South Africa in Atlanta. She made history by winning both the 100m and 200m events at the games. She remains the only woman in the history of the Olympic Games to have achieved this. Heyns was named Female World Swimmer of the year in 1996 and 1999 by Swimming World Magazine. She retired from professional swimming in 2001.
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