Summer McIntosh’s continued assault on international swimming podiums in 2023 has propelled the Ontarian to the Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year title.
“I’m very honored to receive this award and it’s really cool,” McIntosh said of the honor.
A talent for fast swimming combined with composure beyond her years has the Toronto teen geared up for a mammoth 2024.
Just weeks shy of her 17th birthday, McIntosh defended her world titles in the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley in Fukuoka, Japan, becoming a double world champion two years in a row.
“What I’m most proud of is how much I’ve learned about myself and how much I’ve gotten from each experience,” McIntosh noted.
“When it comes to important competitions like a world championship, I don’t really have specific expectations of myself, especially regarding ranking or medals, but I have really tried to reach my full potential in each of my races and I think I succeeded for the most part. »
After placing fourth in the 400-meter freestyle in Fukuoka in her first race – she had been a silver medalist in 2022 – McIntosh rallied with a bronze medal in the 200 freestyle before taking the top step from the podium in his next two races.
“I needed to learn how to get back up right after a run I wasn’t happy with,” she explained.
“It was very important to repair myself mentally and physically and prepare myself for the next race. It was my first race in the competition. I had plenty of other opportunities to do well, so I put that behind me and kept moving forward. »
She capped her haul of four medals at the worlds by swimming the freestyle portion of the medley relay to help Canada win the bronze medal and qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Two world records at the Canadian Trials in March set the stage for his superb performance at the World Championships.
McIntosh broke the previous 400-meter IM world record set by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu at the 2016 Olympics by almost half a second, and lowered the 400-meter freestyle record by just over a quarter of a second. second.
The Canadian was the first swimmer in history to simultaneously hold the world records in the 400-meter IM and 400-meter freestyle, which McIntosh did for almost four months, until Australian Ariarne Titmus reclaims 400-meter freestyle record in Fukuoka in July.
“This time last year, I never thought I would break two world records or previous world records. I think it’s still a little surreal, to be honest,” she admitted.
“It comes down to trying to keep your head down and keep working and not focus too much on records like those, but it’s really cool and it’s kind of a time mark in history. »
McIntosh added an exclamation point to her year by ending American star Katie Ledecky’s 11-year winning streak in the 400-meter freestyle in American pools.
Ledecky hadn’t lost over a quarter mile on his home turf since he was 15. McIntosh beat her by nearly three seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, North Carolina, on December 1.
“Yeah, crazy stuff,” said Marie-Sophie Harvey, McIntosh’s Canadian teammate. “There’s going to be some crazy things happening in Paris, let me tell you. She is a true phenomenon. »
The Canadian Press began honoring male and female athletes of the year in 1932. The CP male athlete of the year will be announced Thursday and the team of the year Friday.
In a poll of sportswriters and broadcasters across the country, McIntosh received 24 out of 52 votes.
“Summer McIntosh is simply the best and achieving incredible results at an incredibly young age,” Morris Prokop, chief sports editor of the Whitehorse Star, wrote on her ballot.
Swimmer Maggie Mac Neil, who won a record five gold medals at the Pan American Games and a silver medal in butterfly at the World Championships in 2023, placed second in votes, 12 behind teammate McIntosh .
“There’s a lot more to come from Summer over the next few years,” said John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s director of high performance.
“This is fantastic recognition for a young woman who is doing remarkable things in high performance sport.
“She is in a fantastic position, which is down to her own attitude, commitment, passion and the great support of her parents and family, as well as her coaches.
Previous CP Female Athlete of the Year winners include hockey players Marie-Philip Poulin (2022) and Hayley Wickenheiser (2007), tennis players Leylah Annie Fernandez (2021) and Bianca Andreescu (2019) , soccer star Christine Sinclair (2012, 2020), golfer Brooke Henderson (2015, 2017, 2018) and swimmer Penny Oleksiak (2016).