Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol
Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

Olympic Swimming Trials: New world record for McIntosh

The Olympic & Paralympic Swimming Trials, Presented by Bell have reached the halfway mark, and celebrated the occasion with the meet’s most electric night yet.

The evening started off with a bang with the women’s 400m individual medley. Fans at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre welcomed Summer McIntosh with a huge cheer, knowing that the last time the teenager took to the pool in this event at a Canadian Trials, a new world record was the result. And she didn’t let them down.

The 17-year-old dominated the race from the beginning to end, finishing with a time of 4:24.38, shaving almost 1.5 seconds off of her own world record.

This is a crowd that knows swimming, timing their cheers for McIntosh’s strokes during the breaststroke to maximize her ability to hear them, a much-appreciated effort for the stroke that she considers her biggest work in progress–one that has been ongoing since she was about 12-years-old.

“I can feel their support and I can hear them cheering during my race and it really keeps me going,” McIntosh said. “I mean, if they weren’t there, I don’t think I would have the 4:25 world record in the first place, let alone this one tonight.”

Despite her young age, McIntosh displays remarkable poise in big moments, and keeps things light for herself.

“My mindset was focusing on having fun with the race and taking it 100m at a time because it’s a pretty mentally challenging race,” McIntosh said post-race.

Up next was the men’s 100m freestyle, where all eyes were on Joshua Liendo making his first appearance at the Trials. Liendo had an extra bit of motivation heading to the starting blocks, as his younger sister Sophia, sang the national anthem to open up the evening’s final.

Liendo won the race, matching his personal best of 47.55, a performance he achieved at the 2022 World Championships, where he won the bronze medal. The 21-year-old was happy to put up a fast time this early in the preparation, and knows he can go faster in Paris.

“Last time [Tokyo 2020] my goal was to get in the final, or make a semi,” Liendo said post-race. “Now I want to be at the top with the best guys.”

And in Liendo’s opinion, the Canadian men are performing better than ever. He can’t remember a group going this fast at the Trials. Liendo was part of a 4x100m relay that finished fourth at Tokyo, and he believes they have a fighting chance in Paris.

Yuri Kisil, Joshua Liendo, and Javier Acevedo celebrate after the men’s 100m freestyle. Photo: Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

“Last time we didn’t even think we had a chance and we came in fourth. We were battling for second at one point. So I’m excited,” Liendo said, “I trust that [the other men] are going to keep the momentum going to Paris. And that’s just a testament to how far we’ve come.”

He won’t be the only Canadian taking part in the 100m freestyle in Paris, as veteran Yuri Kisil, with a time of 48.19, also swam under the Olympic qualifying time of 48.34. This will be the 28-year-old’s third Olympic Games.

Finlay Knox, world champion in the 200m medley event that will be contested on Saturday, smashed his lifetime best of 49.11 from the morning qualifying heats to finish third in 48.29. Javier Acevedo, who qualified for the 100m backstroke on Tuesday, took fourth place in 48.58. Both swimmers should be strong contenders for the men’s 4×100 m freestyle relay this summer.

It was a quick turnaround for Kylie Masse to double back from winning Wednesday night’s 100m backstroke to winning Thursday night’s 200m backstroke. Just 24 hours after setting her best time in almost three years in the 100m backstroke, Masse did it again, this time in the women’s 200m backstroke. Her time of 2:06.24 was the fastest since her Canadian record of 2:05.42, which won her the silver medal at Tokyo 2020.

“I’m really pleased with that. I haven’t been in that form in a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever been that fast at this point in the year. I’ve only ever dropped under 2:07 at the major international meets, so I feel really good,” Masse said post-race.

Masse has been Canada’s top backstroker for close to a decade, meaning that she’s seen a lot in the sport, including the rise of teammate Summer McIntosh. When asked about her reaction to the world record that started the evening off, Masse said people who know Summer well aren’t even really surprised anymore.

“It sounds crazy, but I think every time she dives in the pool we’re expecting something spectacular because that’s just the type of athlete she is,” Masse said. “I think people don’t really realize how special it is because she makes it seem normal. But she is an incredible athlete and I hope people can recognize and appreciate what they’re seeing.”

Regan Rathwell took second in the 200m backstroke with a time of 2:09.38, under the Olympic qualifying time of 2:10.39, to qualify for her first Olympic Games.

The Olympic and Paralympic Swimming Trials, Presented by Bell, will continue until Sunday at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre. Preliminary heats begin at 9:30 a.m. ET each day, with the finals sessions starting at 6:00 p.m. each evening. It all leads up to the official announcement of Team Canada’s Paris 2024 swimming team on Sunday night.

All competition sessions are being streamed live on CBC Sports digital platforms (CBC Gem, cbcsports.ca, CBC Sports app). There is also a nightly highlight show on CBC TV.