Summer McIntosh returns to competition after world record-breaking performances at national trials

A month after breaking two world records and another five world junior records at the national swim trials, Canadian phenom Summer McIntosh was back in race mode competing at the Atlanta Classic this weekend. 

16-year-old Canadian phenom working on individual medleys ahead of worlds in July

A female swims the backstroke leg of an individual medley competition.
Summer McIntosh, pictured during a FINA Swimming World Cup meet in Toronto last October, is expected to compete in the 200m and 400m individual medleys, the 200m and 400m free events and the 200m fly at this summer's world championships in Fukuoka, Japan. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

A month after breaking two world records and another five world junior records at the national swim trials, Canadian phenom Summer McIntosh was back in race mode competing at the Atlanta Classic this weekend. 

But unlike the trials at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre at the end of March and beginning of April where she stunned the swimming world with her remarkable performances, the focus shifted a little during this weekend's event — it was about getting in meaningful race reps in events she doesn't normally compete in but are a part of the medleys. 

McIntosh's head coach Brent Arckey explains to CBC Sports they wanted to hone in on the breast and backstrokes this weekend to improve her individual medleys — McIntosh broke Katinka Hosszú's seven-year world record in the 400-metre IM on April 1.

"She took a couple of days to take a deep breath, which was obviously much needed after all of that," Arckey said. 

"We went back to work and we've been working really hard. There are some little things we've been working on and we want to see how those are looking in a race situation. But really we're looking for race reps before we go back to a big block of work leading into the world championship."

WATCH | Relive McIntosh's 400m IM world record poolside with her family in the stands:

Experience Summer McIntosh's 2nd world record poolside, with her family in the stands

2 months ago
Duration 1:26
Canadian Summer McIntosh broke the world record in the 400m IM at the swim trials in Toronto, her second world record of the week.

'She's good at so many things'

McIntosh had a busy program throughout the weekend meet in Atlanta that began on Friday night. She started with the 100m breaststroke, posting a time of 1:10.77, which was just behind her personal best time in the event of 1:10.39.

On the same night she then competed in the 100m fly, finishing second in a time of 57.86 — that is a personal best time in the event for McIntosh. 

"The best part about Summer is that she's good at so many things. And because the individual medley is such a focal point right now, we're working on all different aspects," Arckey said.

"She's pretty darn good in the off events. So for us it's continuing to develop the breast stroke and keep making some headway in certain lengths of the individual medley."

The Canadian teenager continues to train in Sarasota, Fla., with the Sharks club. 

"She loves to train and loves to race. And she's just having fun doing all of this. I'm just happy we can provide the environment for her to do it," Arckey said.

WATCH | Swimming trials offered glimpse into 'golden generation of swimming in Canada':

Swimming trials offered glimpse into 'golden generation of swimming in Canada'

2 months ago
Duration 2:06
CBC Sports' Devin Heroux recaps Canada's swimming trials, highlighted by Toronto teen Summer McIntosh, who broke 5 records in the pool.

With the clock ticking down to the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan this July, it's expected McIntosh will compete in the 200m and 400m individual medleys, the 200m and 400m free events and the 200m fly.

It's a heavy schedule and will be extremely demanding, especially with the potential of McIntosh also competing in the relays.

Arckey says that's part of why she competed in the 50m free, then 100m back and then immediately in the 200m breast on Saturday night in Atlanta, because it's a tough back-to-back double and valuable for training. 

McIntosh finished fourth in the 50m free in a time of 25.78, which is her fastest time ever. She followed up that with her first win of the meet in the 100m back with a time of 1:00.25, also a personal best time. 

It was then back into the pool for a third event of the evening for the 16-year-old, who finished second in the 200m breast in a time of 2:29.64.

American legend Katie Ledecky was also competing at the event, and posted one of the fastest in-season swims of her career, stopping the clock in a time of 3:58.84 in the 400m free. Ledecky once held the world record in the event.

McIntosh holds the record now having broken Ariarne Titmus's time at trials about a month ago, stopping the clock in 3:56.08.

WATCH | How McIntosh's 400m freestyle world record swim looked poolside:

Live the moment poolside, when Summer McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record

2 months ago
Duration 2:00
Feel as though you are right next to Summer McIntosh as she breaks her first world record at 16 years old, at the Canadian national swimming trials.

McIntosh is the first swimmer in history to hold both the 400m freestyle and 400m individual medley long course world records at the same time.

Arckey says right now it's all about building on what McIntosh did at trials. 

"When you come back from a good meet, one of the most important things is taking what was really good from that and keep doing that, and then let's find a couple things we can do better," Arckey said. 

"This is ever-evolving, especially for a teenager. We'll just keep trying new things and stick to the ones we know that work. Every single time we get on the blocks there are things we're looking for."

McIntosh closed out the competition Sunday in Atlanta with a victory in the 200m backstroke, cruising to the wall in a time of 2:07.34. It was just off her personal best time of 2:07.15 and five seconds clear of the second-place finisher.

At this point Arckey says he's not sure if McIntosh will be competing in any more meets before worlds in July. 

"We may do something minimal in June. We host a couple of bigger invite meets in June and we might utilize those just for some more race reps. But we haven't committed to much in June. That'll all depend on where we're at and how we're feeling at that point," he said.

Family time

A week earlier McIntosh was able to get in some valuable family time with her mom and dad, Jill and Greg, and her sister Brooke, who is an elite pairs figure skater for Canada on the international scene.

The family attended the F1 race in Miami before taking in the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise. 

"They do such a great job of keeping it light," Arkcey said. 

"They do a great job of making sure she continues to be a kid and has other life experiences."

WATCH | Summer and Brooke McIntosh — One family, two rising sports stars:

Summer and Brooke McIntosh: One family, two rising sports stars

2 months ago
Duration 8:20
Summer and Brooke McIntosh are making names for themselves as some of Canada's most promising young athletes. Devin Heroux shows the work the sisters are putting in to be at the top of their respective sports.

Liendo continues strong season

McIntosh wasn't the only Canadian making waves this weekend at the Atlanta Classic.

Josh Liendo, 20, who is coming off of a breakout NCAA season continued his strong season a little more than a month after a stellar performance at trials. 

On Friday night, in the much anticipated return of American great Caeleb Dressel, Liendo stole the show winning the 100m fly ahead of Dressel in a time of 51.79.

Dressel won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. His swim on Friday was his first race after nearly a year layoff.

Liendo's performance was the fastest in-season swim.

A day later on Saturday night, Liendo placed second in the 50m free posting a time of 22.50. Liendo closed out his meet Sunday evening with a victory in the 100m free, stopping the clock in a time of 49.19.

McIntosh and Liendo will be joining 29 other Canadians heading to the world championships beginning in late-July in Fukuoka, Japan. 


Devin Heroux

CBC reporter

Devin Heroux reports for CBC News and Sports. He is now based in Toronto, after working first for the CBC in Calgary and Saskatoon.

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