At 17, swimmer Summer McIntosh is poised to become a breakout star at the Paris Olympics

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Follow our Olympic Games coverage in the run-up to the Paris Games.


TORONTO – Summer McIntosh waited before making her entrance.

It was mid-May, the fourth night of the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic swimming trials. McIntosh, who swam the first two nights, was ready to compete in the 400m individual medley, an event in which she is already a world record holder and two-time world champion at the age of 17.

Summer McIntosh!the announcer shouted.

McIntosh stood beneath a replica of the Eiffel Tower at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. She was the last swimmer to be called. McIntosh walked to Lane 5, serenaded by the roar of the crowd. She adjusted her glasses and placed her hands over the lenses as she stepped onto the starting blocks.

The beep sounded and McIntosh dove into the pool. Eight lengths. One hundred meters for each stroke: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle.

Ten seconds into the race, McIntosh had the lead. Over 100 yards she was a body length in front. In the last 50 meters, McIntosh was the only swimmer visible on the broadcast. She was so far ahead of her competition.

The cheers increased as McIntosh swam across the finish line. Her parents, Greg and Jill, stood up and waved their arms.

McIntosh broke her own world record when she hit the wall, recording a 4:24.38, almost a second and a half faster than her previous record.

The 10 fastest women’s 400m IMs ever

Rank Swimmer Nationality Time Year Event

1

Summer McIntosh

Canada

4:24.38

2024

Canadian Olympic Trials

2

Summer McIntosh

Canada

4:25.87

2023

Canadian swimming trials

3

Katinka Hosszu

Hungary

4:26.36

2016

Olympic Games in Rio (final)

4

Summer McIntosh

Canada

4:27.11

2023

World Swimming Championships

5

Kaylee McKeown

Australia

4:28.22

2024

Australian National Championships

6

Shiwen Ye

China

4:28.43

2012

Olympic Games in London

7

Katinka Hosszu

Hungary

4:28.58

2016

Olympic Games in Rio (heats)

8

Summer McIntosh

Canada

4:28.61

2022

Toyota US Open

9

Summer McIntosh

Canada

4:29.01

2022

Commonwealth Games

10

Katinka Hosszu

Hungary

4:29.33

2017

FINA World Championships

It was a crowning achievement at an Olympic Trials where she swam the fastest times in the world in several cases this year.

This is McIntosh’s stage. Racing in front of an energetic crowd. Where she has fun and feels comfortable.

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“The crowd was absolutely electric,” McIntosh said of the fans during her world record swim. “I heard you all during the breaststroke – it really kept me going.”

In a few weeks, McIntosh will go from swimming in front of a replica of the Eiffel Tower to the confines of Paris’ La Défense Arena, home of the swimming events for the 2024 Paris Olympics, five miles from the actual Eiffel Tower.

The Canadian swimming sensation is ready to shine in the ‘City of Lights’.


McIntosh has deep swimming roots. Her mother, Jill, swam for Canada at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. McIntosh followed in her mother’s footsteps and swam competitively from the age of 8. Away from the pool, McIntosh was inspired by American stars Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps. McIntosh hung posters of Ledecky in her childhood room. She named one of her cats “Mikey” in honor of Phelps. And she watched highlights from Phelps’ historic 2008 Games in Beijing, where he won eight gold medals.

Swimming for the Etobicoke Swim Club brought McIntosh national attention. At age 12, McIntosh lowered a 45-year-old Canadian age group record in the 800-meter freestyle. At age 14, she defeated Penny Oleksiak, Canada’s most decorated Olympian, in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2020 Canadian Olympic Trials, securing her place on the Canadian team for the Tokyo Olympics.

She won no medals in Tokyo. But success soon followed.

Two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in her first appearance there. Four world championship golds combined in 2022 and 2023. World record holder in the 400 meters IM. All 17 years old.


During the Olympic trials in Canada, 17-year-old Summer McIntosh set a world record in the 400 meter IM. She will be a medal contender at five events in Paris. (Andrew Francis Wallace/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

A big reason is that McIntosh is moving to Sarasota, Florida to train with coach Brent Arckey of the Sarasota Sharks. With COVID-19 pandemic restrictions still in place in Ontario, McIntosh needed a pool to swim full-time.

The Selby Aquatic Center in Sarasota, known as the “Shark Tank,” was the perfect spot. Olympic size swimming pool. A friendly but competitive environment. A coach in Arckey, who has experience coaching Olympians.

It’s a tight training program for McIntosh. She swims twice four days a week, early in the morning (6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.) and late in the afternoon (3 p.m. to 5 p.m.). Waking up can be as early as 4:15 am

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Training exercises on dry land. Two hours in the pool. To repeat.

This is what it takes to be among the best swimmers in the world. Even on tough days, McIntosh enjoys preparing for Paris.

“Motivation is not something you always have every day,” McIntosh said The Athletics in November. “It comes in waves. But I always have that discipline, no matter how I feel when I wake up, to go to the pool and do my absolute best.


The Paris Olympic swimming program begins with a seismic race. The women’s 400m freestyle – on July 27, the first full day of events in France – is likely to see a clash between McIntosh, Ledecky and reigning Olympic and world champion Ariarne Titmus.

The last time these three competed together was the 400 meter freestyle at last year’s world championships. Titmus swam to a world record. Ledecky finished second while McIntosh finished fourth on the podium.

It comes from the bad races that McIntosh says she is learning and growing. After a conversation with Arckey and a day off from competition, McIntosh responded with four medals for the remainder of the competition: two gold (200-meter butterfly and 400-meter IM) and two bronze (200-meter free and 4×100-meter freestyle). medley relay).

McIntosh raced against Ledecky, her idol, at the Toyota US Open, almost five months after the 2023 world championships, and defeated the American in the 400 free in a record time. They met again last February in Orlando, where McIntosh ended Ledecky’s 13-year reign in the 800-meter freestyle. Ledecky, who has posted the 29 fastest 800m times in history, had not lost a final in the event since 2010.

At the Canadian Olympic Trials, McIntosh won the 400 meter freestyle in 3:59.06. It is the fastest 400m freestyle of 2024, faster than McIntosh’s world championship run but almost four seconds slower than Titmus’ world record (3:55.38). McIntosh was below world record pace for most of the race. But then she became frustrated, believing she could do better.

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“I know I can go faster. I have to keep moving forward,” McIntosh said.

Arckey sees McIntosh’s result in the 400 meter freestyle differently. Two months away from Paris, there is a path for improvement.

“You’re not going to make any major changes,” Arckey said The Athletics after trials. “It is her second fastest time ever and currently the fastest time in the world. She is strict with herself. There are certainly some things that could be done better, no doubt. That’s what the good ones do.”

McIntosh tests times compared to the last Olympic Games

Event McIntosh during trials in 2024 Gold at the Tokyo Games McIntosh’s time versus field in Tokyo

200 meter freestyle

1:53.69

1:53.50 (Ariarne Titmus)

Silver

400 meter freestyle

3:59.06

3:56.69 (Titmus)

Bronze

200m butterfly

2:04.33

2:03.86 (Zhang Yufei)

Silver

200m individual medley

2:07.06

2:08.52 (Yui Ohashi)

Gold

400m individual medley

4:24.38

4:32.08 (Ohashi)

Gold


It’s the end of the Canadian Olympic Trials and McIntosh, qualified for the Olympics, is once again waiting to be called to the pool deck along with her Swimming Canada teammates. As she walks outside with Arckey, who is also coach of the Canadian national team, she has a long hug with her mother.

Jill has been with Summer every step of her young swimming career. And the family will be in Paris to watch Summer compete for her first Olympic medals.

After trials, McIntosh travels back to Sarasota to train at the Shark Tank. A few days of rest and then back to the pool for the final eight-week push.

Arckey said he and McIntosh will reflect on the trials before honing in on areas to improve for Paris, where the big 400-meter freestyle showdown with Ledecky and Titmus awaits, along with the four other individual events in which McIntosh qualified. After fine-tuning in Sarasota, McIntosh will travel to Normandy for an internship camp with her Swimming Canada teammates. Then the Paris Games.

McIntosh has achieved greatness at international events before. It’s time to do it in Paris, a chance for the Summer Games to become Summer Games.

Summer McIntosh


“I know I can go faster,” Summer McIntosh said of her 400-meter freestyle. McIntosh, Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky combined to record the 26 fastest times ever in the event. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
go deeper

GO DEEPER

Summer McIntosh, 17 years old, has everyone’s attention. Now she’s looking for Olympic glory

(Top illustration: Daniel Goldfarb / The Athletics; photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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