Summer McIntosh Setting Up For Busy and Potentially Historic Second Olympic Games

Summer McIntosh — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Summer McIntosh Setting Up For Busy and Potentially Historic Second Olympics

With just 17 months remaining until the 2024 Olympic Games, it’s not too early to think ahead to Paris. Even with a World Championships set for this summer in Fukuoka, Japan, and plenty of other major competitions this year, elite swimmers and coaches certainly have their targets set for the Games, including what events to target based on the competition schedule. For Canadian teenager Summer McIntosh, who will be 17 upon arriving in what would be already her second Olympics, the options and potential medal opportunities are plentiful.

Consider: McIntosh is already the world champion and third-fastest performer in history in the 400 IM, and she also won a world title in the 200 butterfly last year. She sits fourth all-time in the 400 freestyle, with Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky the only active swimmers who can surpass her form, and she has even captured Commonwealth Games gold in the 200 IM. McIntosh is already established as the centerpiece swimmer of the Canadian women’s 800 free relay, and she is looking like a future stalwart on the 400 free relay as well.

McIntosh skipped the individual 200 free at both of her major competitions last year, but she will have to consider adding the event back for 2023 and beyond. After all, she swam a time of 1:54.13 to win the event at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Fort Lauderdale, scoring a wire-to-wire, eight-tenth win over Ledecky.

The time was McIntosh’s lifetime best by two-thirds of a second, and it would have been fast enough to win the world title last year (by almost eight tenths). She broke Taylor Ruck’s Canadian record of 1:54.44 and improved to eighth all-time in the event, trailing only a who’s-who list of middle-distance stars: Federica Pellegrini, Titmus, Allison Schmitt, Ledecky, Siobhan HaugheyMollie O’Callaghan and Sarah Sjostrom. That’s five individual Olympic gold medalists plus one multi-time silver medalist and a teenager with a world title already in hand. Good company!

But while McIntosh could choose to pursue the 200 free further, it would be unlikely for her to drop either of her world-title events or the 200 free from her program. Just 24 hours before her 200 free performance in Fort Lauderdale, McIntosh broke her own world junior record in the 200 fly. So would it be possible? Could McIntosh handle four events — four very different events — plus relays on the pressure of an Olympic stage?

Based on the new Olympic schedule for 2024, here’s what a McIntosh program could look like:

  • July 27 AM: 400 freestyle prelims
  • July 27 PM: 400 freestyle final, 400 freestyle relay final
  • July 28 AM: 200 freestyle prelims
  • July 28 PM: 200 freestyle semifinal
  • July 29 AM: 400 IM prelims
  • July 29 PM: 400 IM final, 200 freestyle final
  • July 30 AM/PM: off
  • July 31 AM: 200 butterfly prelims
  • July 31 PM: 200 butterfly semifinal
  • August 1 AM: off
  • August 1 PM: 200 butterfly final, 800 freestyle relay final

Add it up, and that’s a potential 12 swims over the first six days of the Olympics, with only one 100-meter event. After her main events are complete, McIntosh could add either the 800 free or 200 IM to her slate, with those events going off starting August 2, and she may end up handling a medley relay leg as well. But let’s say it’s these six: what are the issues?

Well, three days of multiple finals: the first and last with an individual event plus a relay and the middle day where two potential finals (400 IM and 200 free) would bookend the session. Based on the listed event schedules, McIntosh should have sufficient time in between the races to potentially do both but at the risk of wearing her down too early in the Olympics.

And if McIntosh does end up racing a program of four or five individual events plus at least two relays, there could be history on the line. Only three swimmers have ever won six medals in a single Olympics, with Australia’s Emma McKeon becoming the lone swimmer to earn seven at the 2021 Olympics while East Germany’s Kristin Otto and American Natalie Coughlin each have six. This is rarified company, but McIntosh’s recent track record of improvement suggest that a performance akin to this is possible.

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1 year ago

The author forgot to include Kristin Otto from Seoul 1988 in the last paragraph. It may have been a PED-aided performance but he included Kornelia Ender and her performance was also PED-aided so Otto should not have been omitted from the list.

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