Penelope Heyns, was born on the 8th of November 1974 in Springs, Transvaal. Her parents later moved to the Natal South Coast. She attended Doon Heights Primary and then later Amanzimtoti High. She excelled in both academics and in athletics. At the age of 13 she became the swim team captain at school and this is when her interest in swimming grew.
In 1992 she was the youngest member of the South African Olympic team at the Barcelona Games. While she did not win any medals, she did attract the attention. She was offered an athletic scholarship from the University of Nebraska, were she later earned her Degree in Psychology.
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 instead to represent her native South Africans in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. 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. The achievement also marked her as South Africa''s first post-apartheid Olympic gold medalist following South Africa''s re-admission to the Games in 1992.
Penny went on to break many records in her swimming career but her highlight was when she set four world records in 1999. As an international swimmer, Penny Heyns established herself as perhaps the world''s greatest female breaststroker of all time breaking 14 individual world records during her career.
In the year 2000 Penny announced her retirement from swimming and pursued a successful career as a motivational speaker.