Who to watch at the Canadian swimming trials

CBC Sports' daily newsletter previews the Canadian swimming trials, where phenom Summer McIntosh and others are building toward the 2024 Olympics.

Summer McIntosh leads the way toward the 2024 Olympics

A women's swimmer is seen with a large Canadian flag as the background.
Teenage phenom Summer McIntosh is looking to build on her stunning world championships breakthrough as she eyes the 2024 Olympics. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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The Canadian swimming trials got underway this morning in Toronto. This meet will help decide who gets to compete for Canada at this summer's world championships, this fall's Pan Am Games and other international competitions as swimmers ramp up for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris.

Some storylines to follow at the trials:

Two big names are missing.

Penny Oleksiak bowed out earlier this month, saying she's still "not quite ready to race my best" after surgery last August to repair a torn meniscus in her left knee. Oleksiak's rehab has been complicated by issues with her other knee and a shoulder, and there's no timeline for her return to competition. Her absence from the trials doesn't necessarily mean Penny won't compete at the world championships in Japan in late July, but the winner of a Canadian-record seven Olympic medals is focused on peaking for Paris next year.

Taylor Ruck was a late withdrawal, announcing Sunday that she needs a break from swimming after repeating as the NCAA women's 200-yard freestyle champion and helping her Stanford teams to three relay silvers at the U.S. collegiate championships. The four-time Olympic relay medallist plans to return for a Canadian training camp in May, but it's unclear whether she'll swim at the world championships.

It's Summer time.

Life comes at you fast in this sport, where even the brightest stars face constant challenges from the next wave of hungry young athletes. At just 22 years old, Penny Oleksiak might already be passing the torch to Summer McIntosh, the 16-year-old phenom who's coming off a stunning breakthrough year.

After making her Olympic debut in 2021 as a 14-year-old, McIntosh fully arrived as an international star at last June's world championships in Budapest. With her victories in the women's 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, she became the first Canadian swimmer ever to capture two gold medals at a single worlds and, at 15, the country's youngest-ever world or Olympic swimming champion. McIntosh added a silver in the 400m freestyle and a relay bronze to match the national record of four medals at a single worlds and help Canada finish with an all-time-high 11 podiums as a team. She went on to win two more gold and a silver individually at the Commonwealth Games in England last summer, plus three relay medals.

McIntosh, who seems to break records every time she enters the pool, now holds the Canadian record in five different events and the world junior record in four. She's already one of the most accomplished swimmers in her country's history, and she's just learning how to drive a car. The future — heck, the present — belongs to her.

WATCH | 16-year-old Summer McIntosh learns to drive:

'Go go go!': Watch 16-year-old Summer McIntosh learn how to drive

6 months ago
Duration 1:25
Canadian Olympic swimmer Summer McIntosh might be on a superstar athletic path, but she's still only 16 years old, and normal teenage growing pains happen to everyone.

Two new teenagers are on the rise.

Though they're both older than McIntosh, 17-year-old Ellla Jansen and 18-year-old Ilya Kharun are emerging as podium contenders.

Kharun's story is interesting. Born in Montreal, his parents are Cirque du Soleil acrobats who moved the family to Las Vegas for work. Kharun swam for an elite club there and figured he'd represent the United States when he was ready to compete internationally. But after discovering that you need an American passport for that, Kharun joined the Canadian team and made his international debut late last year at the short-course world championships in Australia. He promptly won silver in the 100m butterfly and swam in the final for a Canadian relay team that took bronze. Kharun left the meet with three Canadian and two world junior short-course records. Earlier this month in the standard Olympic-size pool, he broke the Canadian record in the 200m butterfly at a meet in Florida.

WATCH | Montreal's Ilya Kharun a name to watch at Canadian swimming trials:

The new name you need to know before the Canadian Swimming Trials

6 months ago
Duration 1:41
Montreal's Ilya Kharun has been making waves wherever he goes since joining the Canadian team at the end of last year.

Jansen just missed qualifying for her first world championships last year but did make the cut for Canada's Commonwealth Games team. She reached two individual finals, helped Canada take silver in the 4x200m freestyle by swimming the second leg of the final and also collected a bronze for her work in the preliminary round of another relay. Earlier this month, Jansen was named Swimming Canada's Breakout Swimmer of the Year for 2022.

The "old" ones have still got it.

Though Oleksiak and Ruck are sidelined for the time being, other members of the cohort that sparked this golden age of Canadian swimming keep going strong.

At 27, Kylie Masse is the de facto dean of the team. After winning her third world title last year, the backstroke specialist now owns eight world-championship medals. That's one behind Oleksiak for the Canadian record, though Masse leads her younger teammate 5-0 in individual podiums. Three of Masse's four Olympic medals have come in solo races, matching Penny's individual total.

Reigning Olympic 100m butterfly champion Maggie Mac Neil is looking to recapture the world title she captured in 2019 in that event. She skipped the individual events at last year's worlds to avoid burnout, then won the 100m butterfly title at the Commonwealth Games the following month. Mac Neil transferred from the University of Michigan to Louisiana State University this season and won another NCAA title, in the 50-yard freestyle, along with two other medals at the collegiate championships.

Twenty-year-old Josh Liendo falls somewhere in between those decorated veterans and the rising teenagers we talked about earlier. Like McIntosh, he broke through at last year's world championships, capturing a pair of individual bronze medals and a relay silver before winning Commonwealth gold in the 100m butterfly. Canada's Male Swimmer of the Year just capped an excellent freshman season at the University of Florida by winning the NCAA men's 100-yard freestyle title along with two individual silvers and a pair of relay gold medals.

The Canadian trials also feature Para swimmers, who are competing for spots in their world championships this summer in England. Standouts include five-time Paralympic gold medallist Aurelie Rivard, who's looking to add to her four world titles, and Nicolas-Guy Turbide, named Canada's top male Para swimmer for the second straight year after winning his first world and Commonwealth titles.

Read more about the trials in this preview by CBC Sports' Devin Heroux. Preliminary heats go in the morning and finals in the evening through Sunday. You can watch every race live on, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. See the streaming schedule here for details.

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