'Once-in-a-generation swimmer': McIntosh breaks Canadian record on opening night of trials

In the same event she finished fourth in during her Olympic debut at 14 years old in Tokyo, Summer McIntosh broke her own Canadian record in the 400-metre freestyle event at national swimming trials in Victoria on Tuesday.

15-year-old improved her own mark in 400m freestyle, racing to time of 4:01.59

Summer McIntosh rests after a heat during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. At Canadian swimming trials in Victoria on Tuesday, McIntosh improved on her national record in the 400-metre freestyle. (Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press)

Every time 15-year-old Canadian swimming superstar Summer McIntosh hits the water it's a must-see event.

Since last June when she catapulted onto the national scene with her staggering performances at the Olympic trials and followed that up with strong Olympic performances, McIntosh has continued to up the ante by lowering her times in the pool.

And she didn't disappoint on opening night of the national swimming trials at Saanich Commonwealth Place in Victoria.

In the same event she finished fourth in during her Olympic debut at 14 years old in Tokyo, McIntosh broke her own Canadian record in the 400-metre freestyle event Tuesday night.

Her time of 4:01.59 is the third-fastest time in the world this year.

"I'm quite happy with that. Going into the race I didn't really expect a certain time. I didn't really know what I was capable of," McIntosh told CBC Sports after the race.

"I'm pretty happy with that. Dropping some time off my Olympic race."

WATCH l McIntosh breaks own Canadian record in women's 400m freestyle:

15-year-old Summer McIntosh breaks own Canadian record in women's 400m freestyle

8 months ago
Duration 9:12
Toronto's Summer McIntosh lowered her own Canadian record in the women's 400-metre freestyle event, swimming to a time of 4:01.59 at the 2022 Canadian Swimming Trials in Victoria.

Her record-setting performance comes just a little more than a month after she swam the third-fastest time ever in the 400m IM during an invitational trials prep event at the beginning of March.

This is the trend now — McIntosh is shaving time off each event she competes in at a staggering rate.

Asked if she's surprised by her meteoric ascension in the swimming world, McIntosh shyly suggested she was but then pointed to all the work she's been doing to get to this point.

"In some races I know my training will reflect the performances. I know what I'm capable of after all the hard work I've done," she said.

And she's just getting started at the trials. McIntosh has a busy schedule this week with the 200m freestyle, 200m butterfly and 400m IM events still ahead of her.

"I'm really excited for the rest of my races. I have a pretty big schedule but as long as I take good care of myself and prepare myself well and recover well, I'll hopefully do good," McIntosh said.

'We'll continue to see great things'

Longtime CBC Sports swimming analyst Byron MacDonald was inside Saanich Commonwealth Place Tuesday night for McIntosh's performance and had the highest praise for the phenom from Toronto.

"Summer is a once-in-a-generation swimmer. You don't see this very often and they're very special. And she's going to get better and better and better," MacDonald said.

"You have to remember, she's young. So she's going to improve by getting older and stronger and fitter and better. That's what we're seeing everytime she hits the water. It's unbelievable."

MacDonald says Canadians should get used to seeing these record-setting results from McIntosh for years to come.

"Summer knows where she is in the world. She knows who's ahead of her. She knows who's behind her. She is a very aware young woman and she will challenge herself to be one of the best," he said.

"There's no question we'll continue to see great things."

WATCH l Knox lowers his national record in men's 200m IM:

Finlay Knox lowers his own Canadian record in the 200m I.M.

8 months ago
Duration 6:02
Finlay Knox of Okotoks, Alta, lowered his own Canadian record in the men's 200-metre individual medley, swimming to a time of 1:57.50 at the 2022 Canadian Swimming Trials in Victoria.

McIntosh was the youngest member of the Canadian team last summer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic but she certainly didn't show her age on the world's grandest athletic stage. 

McIntosh finished fourth in the 400m freestyle, at that point  lowering the Canadian record twice. She placed ninth in the 200m freestyle and 11th in the 800m free, setting a national age group record. She was also part of the 4x200m freestyle team that finished fourth in Canadian record time. Her opening-leg swim broke the Canadian age group record.

McIntosh, who trains at the High Performance Centre in Ontario, is soaking up the experience of being around teammates who push her every day while at the same time having fun.

"Everyone surrounding us right now is positive and we're one big team. It's so fun to represent Canada because it's such a great team. I'm having so much fun. I get to do what I love every day and be around my best friends. I'm so grateful for it," she said.

"I just try to take the small steps every day and try to train my hardest in and out of the water. To do those small steps will allow me to reach my big goals."

On verge of a breakout

With a world championship in June and the Commonwealth Games shortly after that, this summer could be Summer's breakout moment.

Last month McIntosh was named Swimming Canada's Breakout Performer of the Year and the Junior Female Swimmer of the Year.

She won her first individual medal at a major international senior event with a silver in the 400m freestyle at the short course world championships in Abu Dhabi last December. She was also part of the gold-medal winning 4x200m freestyle relay and the 4x100m medley relay team that took silver.

But with two major international meets looming over the next few months, McIntosh isn't putting any extra pressure on herself by projecting certain expectations.

"I try not to do that with any meet big or small. It can stress you out too much. I just try to dream big and never try to limit what I can do," she said.

McIntosh comes from a sporting family. Her mother, Jill Horstead, swam for Canada in the 1984 Olympic Games. And her older sister, Brooke McIntosh, is a pairs figure skater.

It wasn't all that long ago McIntosh was sitting in the stands watching national trials and Olympic trials and wondering if one day she might be good enough to compete with the best.

Fast-forward a few years later and she is taking the swimming world by storm and there's no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

"It's really surreal because two years ago this was my big dream and my big goal. To think over two years there's been that big of a change, I never thought it would be like this," McIntosh said.

"I'm just so happy where I am now."


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.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?