Summer McIntosh Shows Speed, Fulfills Promise With Six Medals at Commonwealth Games

Summer McIntosh -- Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

Summer McIntosh Shows Speed, Fulfills Promise With Six Medals at Commonwealth Games

For two years, we have seen glimpses of what Summer McIntosh could be. A 14-year-old narrowly missing the podium in an individual event at the Olympics makes the world take notice, and after she debuted as primarily a freestyler in Tokyo, McIntosh began flashing in the butterfly and individual medley events as well. But now, we have seen McIntosh’s vast talent on display at two championship-level events, the World Championships in Budapest and now the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

At the World Championships, McIntosh, now 15, finished second behind only Katie Ledecky in the 400 freestyle, took individual gold medals in the 200 fly and 400 IM and led off Canada’s bronze-medal-winning 800 free relay team in a time that would have won gold in the individual 200 free. At the Commonwealth Games, the teenager skipped the 200 fly to avoid overloading her schedule, but in her other two Worlds events, she was better.

In a dominant effort in the 400 IM, she swam the fastest time in the world in six years, a 4:29.01 that only Olympic champions Katinka Hosszu and Ye Shiwen have ever surpassed. She could not keep pace with Ariarne Titmus in the 400 free, but she knocked a few hundredths off her Worlds time, and she remains one of only four women to ever break the 4:00 barrier.

OK, that’s two medals — but McIntosh won six at the Commonwealth Games. Her other individual race was the 200 IM, a race that McIntosh called “more of a sprinting event for me,” and she out-dueled the World Championships silver medalist in the event, Kaylee McKeown, as she swam a time of 2:08.70 to crush the world junior record by more than a second and less than a tenth off the Canadian record held by standout Sydney Pickrem.

That gave McIntosh a top-four time in the world for 2022 in five separate individual events. Here is the rundown:

  • 400 IM: First, 4:29.01
  • 200 Butterfly: First, 2:05.20
  • 400 Freestyle: Second, 3:59.32
  • 200 IM: Third, 2:08.70
  • 200 Freestyle: Fourth, 1:54.79

Only one other woman is ranked top-four in the world in five individual events — Ledecky. Good company.

McIntosh also won medals on all three of the Canadian women’s relays this week. She is a lock on leadoff for the 800 free relay right now, but she was also called upon as a 100 freestyler with Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck both skipping these Games and Kayla Sanchez having left Swimming Canada to represent the Philippines. So McIntosh led off the 400 free relay in a personal-best time of 54.62, and then she obliterated that as she anchored the 400 medley relay in 53.33. That race took place mere minutes after her individual 400 free final, with only the men’s medley relay in between. McIntosh got in a few easy laps but not the full recovery needed to perform at her best. Then again, who needs recovery at age 15?

“The turnaround is quite easy because you don’t have the time to process what just happened in the previous race,” McIntosh said, according to Swimming Canada. “I just went in the warm down pool, did a few laps and joined my team in the ready room. ’It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and I want to do it again.”

There are concerns within the swimming community that too much pressure has been placed on McIntosh, too many expectations for a swimmer so young and promising. Those concerns are valid, particularly with a heightened focus on mental health in recent years as athletes have bravely shared their vulnerabilities.

But for McIntosh, it’s not hype and bluster anymore. Based purely on results from this year, not career medal totals or performance over a long stretch of time, McIntosh is the third-best female swimmer in the world behind Titmus and Ledecky. Yes, Aussies McKeown and Emma McKeon both are coming off brilliant Olympic performances and large Commonwealth Games medal hauls of their own, and Sarah SjostromMollie O’Callaghan and Torri Huske all belong in that conversation, but dominance in two events plus medal-worthy speed in three others? That’s rare, regardless of age.

Talent and drive produce fast swimming, but none of that is possible without a sound mental approach, and after her 200 IM win, McIntosh gave a hint as to how she ticks. “The only pressure I feel is what I put on myself,” she said. “The only thing that matters is my expectations.’”

Maybe that’s McIntosh’s secret sauce, not worrying about what anyone on the outside thinks. Whatever the reasons, she is a two-time world champion and one of the top performers of the Commonwealth Games with two weeks to go until her 16th birthday.

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1 year ago

Summer McIntosh will never forget her historic coach Kevin Thorburn and she will always swim in part to make him proud of her. In this and among other things, she is already admirable.

1 year ago

If she continues at this rate, imagine Summer McIntosh at age 17 in Paris.

Jonathan McDouglas
Jonathan McDouglas
1 year ago

Thank you David for your excellent and well opinioned article. I’m sorry but its nonsense (that she is third best in the world). She is ok but she isn’t even the best swimmer on her squad (Penny Oleksiak is faster, bigger and has more medals). McIntosh doesn’t even have any world records at all so all this hullaballoo for what? Also she has a very poor breastroke and bad form which she must improve, though she is very young. Also her freestyle has a flaw, she curls her right arm on her catch. I hope she succeeds but the worry is she will be a flash in the pan similar to how Allison Higson set a world record at 15 years of age but then never heard from her after that.

Michael McCormack
Michael McCormack
1 year ago

Wonderful person, a great sport, has a love of life and competition that is thrilling to observe; she’s so easy to root for! Thank you, Greg and Jill, for your two gracious, incredible daughters. Their ongoing athletic development is exciting.

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