Commonwealth Games: Summer McIntosh is 15 and swimming's next big thing

Summer McIntosh winning the 200m individual medley gold on Monday in Birmingham, where she bagged six medals. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Canada's Summer McIntosh wrapped up her Games debut with a silver in the 400m freestyle on Aug 3, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BIRMINGHAM - Summer McIntosh is 15, fast and always in a hurry.

Following her four medals, including two individual golds, at the recent World Aquatics Championships, the Canadian picked up six medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, an encore performance that has earmarked her as the next big thing in swimming.

She wrapped up her Games debut on Wednesday (Aug 3) with a silver in the 400m freestyle - narrowly losing to Australian middle distance star Ariarne Titmus - and reminded everyone she is still very much a teenager, waiting to celebrate her sweet 16 in two weeks.

Standing at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre's mixed zone, Summer, who enjoys sleepovers with friends on weekends and creating TikTok videos with her older sister Brooke, 17, was happily sharing a pack of Haribo gummy bears with her teammates.

She told The Straits Times: "I was around probably 10 or 11 when I started to dream about going to the Olympics for the first time.

"Obviously I wasn't going to make it when I was 10 but it was such a dream of mine to do and it was such an unrealistic goal that I had for myself and to be here now is very unreal, I feel like I'm living through someone else's body to be honest.

"I'm just so proud of where I've come and this whole team is just amazing. Everyone I compete against are probably some of my biggest idols ever and to be able to even race them is such an honour and an incredible experience that not many people get to do."

She is already an Olympian, having featured at last year's Tokyo Games where she narrowly missed out a medal twice, finishing fourth in the 400m free and 4x200m free relay.

Here in England, she bagged the 200m and 400m individual medley titles - with the latter in a Games record time - along with three silvers and a bronze.

Her exploits in the pool is perhaps unsurprising considering she comes from a family of athletes.

Her mother Jill Horstead swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and claimed a bronze in the 200m butterfly at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. Brook meanwhile, is a figure skater who finished fourth at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne and picked up a pairs bronze medal at the 2022 junior worlds.

The 1.75m Summer was involved in football, gymnastics, figure skating, horseback riding and artistic swimming. She started swimming competitively at eight and said: "I just really enjoy the day-to-day grind and hard work for what it takes to be a high performance athlete and just pushing myself in practice and pushing my body to the limit just so that I can do it well in competition."

Summer McIntosh (left) and Maggie Mac Neil sharing a pack of gummies at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre's mixed zone. ST PHOTO: DAVID LEE

Her teammates can vouch for that. A running joke within the Canadian squad is that they have to start warm-up - and sometimes cool down - five minutes before Summer does.

Olympic champion Maggie Mac Neil told Canadian sports news channel Sportsnet: "Otherwise, she'll just kick your butt. That girl does not do anything slowly."

It has certainly been a summer of speed from McIntosh, who is relishing the challenge. She said: "I don't think there's much pressure. The only pressure I focus on is the pressure I put on myself and that's all I care about.

"I just find it so fun to race against people from all over the world and represent Canada."

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