World Championships Preview — Women’s IM: The Astounding Summer McIntosh Hits World-Beating Speed

Summer McIntosh -- Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada/Scott Grant

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World Championships Preview — Women’s IM: The Astounding Summer McIntosh Hits World-Beating Speed

Seven years after Katinka Hosszu swam a time of 4:26.36 in the 400 IM at the 2016 Olympics, shattering the already-stunning world record by two seconds, Summer McIntosh finally knocked off that mark. She had been chipping away at her time over the previous year to put herself within long-term striking distance of Hosszu’s record, but the 16-year-old exploded at Canadian Trials in April to swim a time of 4:25.87. Now, she heads to the World Championships as the big favorite to repeat as world champion, with no one else in the field having ever broken 4:31.

Meanwhile, McIntosh also reached rarefied territory in the 200 IM, a newer event for her, with a 2:06.89 world junior record at Canadian Trials, quicker than any swimmer had recorded since 2016. However, the event schedule presents a conundrum: McIntosh would have to race the 200 IM semifinals minutes after the 400 freestyle. An even bigger conflict looms for Kaylee McKeown, with the 100 back semis just before the 200 IM final. Whether either or both of these swimmers race the 200 IM is a large question heading into one of the most improved and most exciting races on the Worlds docket.

Notably, Hosszu is not expected to compete at World Championships as she is expecting her first child. Hosszu swept the IM events at four consecutive World Championships (2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019), and she also won the 400 IM title in 2009.

Previous Events:

Women’s 200 Individual Medley
WR 2:06.12 Katinka Hosszu HUN Kazan (RUS) Aug. 3, 2015
CR 2:06.12 Katinka Hosszu HUN Kazan (RUS) Aug. 3, 2015
WJR 2:06.89 Summer McIntosh CAN Toronto (CAN) March 30, 2023
Women’s 400 Individual Medley
WR 4:25.87 Summer McIntosh CAN Toronto (CAN) Apr. 1, 2023
CR 4:29.33 Katinka Hosszu HUN Budapest (HUN) July 30, 2017
WJR 4:25.87 Summer McIntosh CAN Toronto (CAN) Apr. 1, 2023


Freya Colbert (GBR): This 19-year-old won 400 IM bronze at last year’s European Championships but has been as fast as 4:35.50 this year, an enormous improvement which puts her in the medal hunt. Contending in: 400 IM

Kate Douglass (USA): The versatile Douglass is a huge gold-medal threat in the 200 IM after swimming a time of 2:07.09 at last week’s U.S. Nationals to move to No. 7 all-time in the event. Douglass is also the fastest swimmer ever by a huge margin in the 200-yard IM, and she was the short course world champion late last year. This will be her first long course 200 IM appearance at an international meet since winning bronze in Tokyo. Contending in: 200 IM

Jenna Forrester (AUS): Another swimmer making huge improvements this year, Forrester won the 400 IM at Australian Trials in 4:34.89 and finished second in the 200 IM in 2:09.29. She is expected to make the final in both races in Fukuoka, with a medal a very real possibility in the 400-meter event. Contending in: 200 IM & 400 IM

Sara Franceschi (ITA): The bronze medalist at the European Championships last year in the 200 IM, Franceschi has been as fast as 2:10.05 in the 200 IM and 4:35.98 in the 400 IM this year, so it might be the more-open 400-meter race that is her best shot. Contending in: 200 IM & 400 IM

Anastasia Gorbenko (ISR): Gorbenko is the two-time European champion in the 200 IM, and she won short course world titles in 2021 in the 50 breaststroke and 100 IM. She swam a time of 2:09.28 on the Mare Nostrum circuit earlier this year. Contending in: 200 IM

Katie Grimes (USA): Grimes was the runnerup in the 400 IM at last year’s World Championships, and she recorded a sparkling time of 4:31.88 earlier this year, putting herself within range of an American record that has lasted 15 years. While she was off her best times at U.S. Nationals, she still swam a 4:33.80 that no one in the field aside from McIntosh can beat. Contending in: 400 IM

Summer McIntosh (CAN): McIntosh is clearly the woman to beat in the 400 IM, with no one in the field having come within six seconds of her new world record. She would be the favorite in the 200 IM as well if she decided to swim the race despite the schedule conflict. It is unclear which races McIntosh will swim at Worlds, but we will guess McIntosh passes on this one while racing her four other main individual events. Contending in: 200 IM & 400 IM

Update (7/12/23): McIntosh is officially not entered in the 200 IM in Fukuoka.

Kaylee McKeown (AUS): The Aussie ranks second in the world in the 400 IM, but she did not race the event at Australian Trials and will not at Worlds. The 200 IM, where she ranks third in the world behind McIntosh and Douglass, is a question mark. Last year, McKeown skipped the 100 backstroke despite being the Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder. The guess is that she prioritizes the backstroke and a potential showdown with Regan Smith this time around. Contending in: 200 IM

Mio Narita (JPN): This 16-year-old is a new face in international racing after she won gold medals in both IM events at last year’s Junior Pan Pacific Championships and World Junior Championships. She owns a best time of 4:36.79 in the longer medley, putting her into medal contention on the senior level this year. Contending in: 400 IM

Yui Ohashi (JPN): We’ll see what Ohashi can bring to the table this year. The Olympic champion in both medleys in Tokyo, she missed the Worlds final of the 200 IM last year before taking fifth in the 400 IM. She is 27 but with strong big-meet credentials. Contending in: 200 IM & 400 IM

Sydney Pickrem (CAN): This Canadian veteran won Worlds bronze in the 400 IM in 2017 and then bronze medals in the 200 IM and 200 breaststroke two years later. Pickrem no longer competes in the longer medley, but she posted a time of 2:08.61 in the 200 IM in her second-place finish behind McIntosh at Canadian Trials. Contending in: 200 IM

Update (7/11/23): Swimming Canada announced that Pickrem is withdrawing from Worlds to due personal reasons.

Katie Shanahan (GBR): Shanahan, 19, won silver in the 200 backstroke at the European Championships last year and bronze in the 200 IM and 200 back at the Commonwealth Games. Now, she will contend at Worlds after winning an exciting 200 IM race at British Trials in 2:09.40 and placing second in the 400 IM (4:36.74). Contending in: 200 IM & 400 IM

Marrit Steenbergen (NED): Steenbergen is better known for her freestyle abilities, but she grabbed European silver last year in the 200 IM and swam a time of 2:09.16 in April. Contending in: 200 IM

Alex Walsh (USA): We have not even mentioned the swimmer who won the world title in the 200 IM last year in utterly dominant fashion. Walsh ranks seventh all-time at 2:07.13, and she went sub-2:08 again as she finished second to Douglass at U.S. Nationals. Walsh has also added the 400 IM to her schedule this year, and she could be in the medal mix after finishing second to Grimes at U.S. Nationals in 4:35.46. Contending in: 200 IM & 400 IM

Abbie Wood (GBR): Wood was the unlucky fourth-place finisher in this event in Tokyo, with Douglass’ finishing sprint enough to put her 11 hundredths clear for the bronze medal. Wood had a strong swim at the British Championship this year, finishing just behind Shanahan in 2:09.46. Contending in: 200 IM

Yu Yiting (CHN): This 17-year-old was fifth in the Olympic final, swimming a time of 2:09.57 that was (at the time) a world junior record. Yu was totally absent from last summer’s World Championships, but her strong form so far in 2023 means she will be contending again in Fukuoka. She went 2:08.xx in the 200 IM and 4:35.61 in the 400 IM. Contending in: 200 IM & 400 IM


Women’s 200 Individual Medley

Gold: Kate Douglass (USA)
Silver: Alex Walsh (USA)
Bronze: Yu Yiting (CHN)

We are projecting McIntosh and McKeown to skip this event to focus on other races, leaving a strong 1-2 opportunity for the United States. Without Pickrem in contention, Yu is the bronze medalist after she starts strong and holds on down the stretch. Thankfully for McIntosh and McKeown, the schedule for next year’s Olympics is much for friendly for a possible run in this event.

Women’s 400 Individual Medley

Gold: Summer McIntosh (CAN)
Silver: Katie Grimes (USA)
Bronze: Alex Walsh (USA)

The gold and silver-medal candidates are well clear of the field. While McIntosh cannot reach her own impressive world record, Grimes lowers Katie Hoff’s long-standing American mark. Walsh takes advantage of additional 400 IM racing experience and holds on for a medal.

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1 year ago

Summer is 16. She won’t turn 17 until August 15. Merci de vous relire et de vérifier vos infos 😊

1 year ago

Furthermore, Katie Grimes turned 17 in January. So it would be quite a feat if she could have been close to set a 15 year old record “earlier this year”. There are 4 other blunders in the article mais j’ai d’autres choses à faire …

1 year ago
Reply to  Ericvui

a 15 year old American record (set in 2008) not a record for 15 year olds

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