Summer McIntosh scorched the pool in Knoxville, Tenn., for a third consecutive night on Saturday, leading to a third consecutive victory at the Pro Swim Series.
The Canadian swimming sensation posted the fastest women’s 200-metre individual medley time, stopping the clock in a time of two minutes 7.16 seconds. She lowered her Pro Swim Series record that was set last year (2:08.08).
That put a bow on yet another successful meet for the 17-year-old phenom who has continually excelled and put forward consistent swimming as the Paris Olympics comes into focus.
Toronto’s McIntosh led for much of the race but found herself in second place behind American Alex Walsh as they made the final turn and headed into the closing 50 metres. In the final freestyle metres the Canadian was able to find an extra gear and touched the wall first ahead of Walsh.
“I knew going into it that it would come down to the last 50,” McIntosh said. “Just figuring it out and always trying to have a strong finish in the freestyle.
She has been called a generational talent.
McIntosh is the world junior record holder in this event, having posted a 2:06.89 last March at the Canadian swimming trials. That’s the fourth-fastest time ever in the event. She was only 0.27 off of that time in January, which bodes well for the Olympics.
“Overall I’d say I’m pretty happy with it. I feel I got better as the meet went on. Going into this meet I didn’t have specific expectations on times. I know I’m always just polishing up details on turns and dives and stuff like that and figuring out how I want to swim the next races,” McIntosh said.
“Training, training, training. Tuning up for what’s to come in the summer and trials.”
WATCH l McIntosh sets Canadian, world junior record in 200m IM at 2023 national trials:
It appeared earlier in the week there would be a showdown between McIntosh and two of the top racers in the 200m individual medley.
Americans Kate Douglass and Alex Walsh finished first and second, respectively, in the event at the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan this past summer. McIntosh did not race in the event.
However, Douglass elected to swim a time trial on Friday and did not race in Saturday’s final. Douglass stopped the clock in an impressive 2:07.89 in that time trial.
The move paid off. Douglass did compete in the 200m breaststroke final and broke the American record in a time of 2:19.30.
On Friday night, McIntosh picked up a win in the 200m freestyle, leading from start to finish and stopping the clock in a time of 1:55.41 seconds. The next closest swimmer was nearly three seconds behind.
Plans for Paris
The big question now is what McIntosh’s program will look like at the Paris Olympics. It would appear that the 200m fly is a lock considering she’s the two-time defending world champion in that event.
She has competed in the 400m freestyle event at the past two world championships, finishing second in 2022 and fourth last summer.
This is a highly anticipated race at the Paris Olympics as it will pit McIntosh against Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus on opening night. All three swimmers have held the world record in the distance — Titmus broke McIntosh’s world record last summer at worlds.
There is much speculation around whether or not McIntosh will compete in the 200m freestyle and the 200m individual medley, or if she’ll sit out one of those events to make space for a busy schedule in Paris that will undoubtedly also include relays.
At the 2023 worlds, McIntosh swam the 200m freestyle and won bronze. She elected not to compete in the 200m individual medley.
WATCH | McIntosh successfully defends world title in 400m IM:
Other Canadians in Knoxville
There were a number of other Canadians competing at the Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville.
On Friday, Canadian Maggie Mac Neil competed in the same event she captured gold in at the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021.
In her first 100m butterfly since early-January, the 23-year-old finished second in the race, stopping the clock in a time of 57.18 behind American Gretchen Walsh (56.78).
It’s been a busy schedule for Mac Neil of late, including a record-setting performance at the Pan Am Games in Santiago, Chile in November. She won five gold medals for Canada.
“I did a lot of good work this fall leading up to Pan Ams obviously, which was reflected in my performance. I’ve kind of been in and out of the water a bit the last couple of months with American Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Mac Neil said.
Mac Neil will compete in one meet in April ahead of the Canadian Olympic trials set for mid-May in Montreal.
Also on Friday evening Tessa Cieplucha, from Georgetown, Ont., placed first in the 400m individual medley.
She outpaced American swimming great Ledecky in the race, stopping the clock in a time of 4:41.54. It was her fastest time in this race since the 2022 Canadian swimming trials when she posted 4:39.90.
Cieplucha also competed in the 200m individual medley, finishing sixth overall in a time of 2:16.35. Ashley McMillan, from Penticton, B.C., finished fourth in the same race in a time of 2:13.38.