2022 Commonwealth Games Previews: McKeown And McIntosh To Face Off In The IMs

2022 COMMONWEALTH GAMES

  • Friday, July 29 – Wednesday, August 3, 2022
  • Birmingham, England
  • Sandwell Aquatic Center
  • Start Times
    • Prelims: 10:30 am local / 5:30 am ET
    • Finals: 7:00 pm local / 2:00 pm ET
  • LCM (50m)
  • Meet Central
  • Event Schedule

Australia’s Kaylee McKeown is one of the most versatile swimmers in the world, being elite in both the backstroke and IM events. The question is, can she win all of these races at the Commonwealth Games? The backstrokes will come a little easier for her, as she already has multiple international championships to her name in the 100 and 200 back. However, there’s a lot more obstacles standing in her way for the IMs.

At the World Championships, that obstacle was Alex Walsh who won the 200 IM by a significant margin – almost a second-and-a-half ahead of the runner-up McKeown. But at the Commonwealth Games, it’s going to be Canada’s Summer McIntosh, the 15-year-old teenage phenom.

McIntosh is a star of her own, being the 400 IM World Champion and the third-fastest performer of all-time in the event. She’s over two seconds faster than McKeown at her best, and is the heavy favorite to win the event assuming everything goes right for her. The 200 IM is new to McIntosh’s event lineup, and although McKeown should have the upper hand here, who knows what will happen in the Canadian’s first time swimming the event at a major international meet.

200 IM

  • Commonwealth Record: Siobhan Marie O’Connor, England — 2:06.88 (2016)
  • Commonwealth Games Record: Siobhan Marie O’Connor, England — 2:08.21 (2014)
  • 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Siobhan Marie O’Connor, England — 2:09.80

If McKeown ends up racing the 200 IM, she’s the likely winner of the race. She’s the Worlds silver medalist, and her season-best time of 2:08.57 is over 1.5 seconds clear of the rest of her Commonwealth competition. But the question is, will she even swim the 200 IM?

Before the World Championships, Australian media reported that McKeown was looking to race three individuals at both Worlds and Commonwealths, and wasn’t racing the 400 IM at Worlds. That implies that she won’t be swimming the 200 IM here, although she is set to swim the event according to the entry list.

If McKeown were to swim the 200 IM, she would have to take on a double with the 200 back. And while that’s a tough double to deal with, it’s still doable, as the two events are separated by three semi-finals and two medal ceremonies. However, given that she scratched the 100 back at the World Championships to focus on the 200 IM final, we could very well see something similar be done at the Commonwealth Games.

When McKeown is taken out of the equation, McIntosh is our pick to win the event in her absence. The Canadian is better known for bursting onto the scene in the 400 IM, but she set a respectable personal best time of 2:10.75 at Mare Nostrum this year. And while that only makes her the fifth-fastest Commonwealth swimmer this year, it’s reasonable to assume that she can be a lot faster than that time at a big taper meet, given her strength in the 400 IM and other 200-meter distance events like the 200 free and 200 fly. However, there’s a few other swimmers who have been just as fast as McIntosh this year, and will be tough competition.

England’s Abbie Wood, last year’s fourth place finisher at the Olympics, has a best time of 2:09.15. She has winner-potential with that time, but she also went 2:11.31 at Worlds this year and missed the finals. Her chances of gold in the 200 IM are largely dependent on whether she can be back on form come time for Commonwealths after dealing with a bout of glandular fever (mono) over the last year. If we are correct that the whole of the British contingent is more focused on this meet than it was on Worlds, then expect at least a medal for Wood.

Then there’s the Canadian duo of Sydney Pickrem and Mary-Sophie Harvey. Pickrem, the 2019 Worlds bronze medalist in the 200 IM, pulled out of the Commonwealth Games due to personal reasons. Harvey on the other hand had a great World Championships meet, setting a best time of 2:10.22 and finishing 8th in the final. However, it appears that she seems to be coming off of a few physical injuries.

Harvey recently spoke out about possibly being drugged on the last night of the World Championships, which resulted in a rib sprain and a small concussion that affected her ability to perform upper-body workouts. If her Commonwealths isn’t derailed by past injuries, a medal would be the culmination of a huge breakout season for Harvey, as she qualified individually for her first major international meet since 2017 and dropped over a second in the 200 IM.

Australians Ella Ramsay and Abbey Harkin could be in the mix for top five as well, holding season best times of 2:12.12 and 2:12.74 respectively. The two Dean Boxall-trained swimmers set those times finishing 2-3 at Australian trials this year, but are on very different career trajectories.

The 17-year-old Ramsay came into 2022 with a PB of 2:13.76, and then shaved nearly a second off of it to qualify for her first World Championship and Commonwealth team. At Worlds this year, she was slightly off her trials time, placing 15th with a 2:13.10. Harkin, who is 24 years old, is more of a veteran to swimming. She’s stronger in the breaststroke events, but set her fastest time since 2019 in the 200 IM at trials this year to place third, and will be making her major international debut in the event at Commonwealth Games.

New Zealand Helena Gasson has a season-best time of 2:12.68, but finished 22nd at World Championships in 2:15.95. Her Worlds time was her slowest recorded time in the event since 2019, and her performance at Commonwealth Games will indicate whether Worlds was a fluke for her or not.

SwimSwam’s Predictions:

Ranking Swimmer Country Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Kaylee McKeown Australia 2:08.57 2:08.19
2 Summer McIntosh Canada 2:10.75 2:10.75
3 Abbie Wood England 2:10.64 2:09.15
4 Mary Sophie-Harvey Canada 2:10.22 2:10.22
5 Ella Ramsay Australia 2:12.12 2:12.12

400 IM

  • Commonwealth Record: Summer McIntosh, Canada — 4:29.12 (2022)
  • Commonwealth Games Record: Hannah Miley, Scotland — 4:31.76 (2014)
  • 2018 Commonwealth Champion: Aimee Wilmott, England — 4:34.90 

The more guaranteed showdown between McIntosh and McKeown will come in the 400 IM, which will be the first individual event on the schedules of both swimmers.

McIntosh shocked the swimming world back in March when she swam that 4:29.12 time to break the Commonwealth record. McKeown’s best time of 4:31.74 from Australian trials is a far reach from what McIntosh’s fastest is, but it’s quicker than the 4:32.04 swim that McIntosh produced to win at the World Championships. 

If McIntosh nears her best time, she’s running away with the title here. However, if she doesn’t, the race could get a lot closer. 

The way McIntosh and McKeown pace their 400 IM is extremely different, so it could be very interesting to see how this race plays out. McIntosh pushes it very hard on fly and free, but breaststroke is her weakest stroke. McKeown, on the other hand, is an extremely strong breaststroker, with her breast split from trials being under world record pace. 

You can see their splits side-by-side here:

Summer McIntosh, 2022 Canadian Trials Prep Event Kaylee McKeown, 2022 Australian Trials
Fly 1:00.78 1:04.19
Back 1:09.16 1:08.36
Breast 1:18.15 1:15.74
Free 1:01.18 1:03.45
Total 4:29.12 4:31.74

McIntosh is faster than McKeown on fly and free by a combined 5.68 seconds, but McKeown makes up 2.41 seconds on breast to cut the deficit by nearly half. In a race scenario, it is likely that we will see McIntosh come from behind on freestyle if she were to win the race.

McKeown’s teammate, Jenna Forrester, is also a podium favorite. She finished seventh at worlds in a time of 4:42.79, but has been as fast as 4:36.77 before at Australian trials this year, a three-second drop from her previous best time of 4:39.46. At 18 years old, Forrester is still very young, so her adding time at Worlds can likely be attributed to the pressure of her first major international meet. Being the top Commonwealth swimmer aside from McKeown and McIntosh, look to see her be in the mix at the top as she gains more experience at big meets.

Another Aussie, Kiah Melverton, didn’t get to compete at the World Championships in the 400 IM due to qualification rules, but entered in the event at the Commonwealth Games. She finished third at Australian trials in 4:39.78, her first PB in this race since 2018. She’s strong in middle-distance freestyle events, having just recently medaled in the 800 free at World Championships, but Birmingham will be her first time taking IM to the test internationally since the World University Games in 2017.

Keep an eye out for Tessa Cieplucha of Canada as well, as she finished eleventh at Worlds in a time of 4:44.53 but went 4:39.49 during trials. She’s seeded fourth out of all the Commonwealth swimmers in this event and has a best time of 4:37.26 from last year, so she could potentially reach the podium too.

SwimSwam’s Predictions:

Ranking Swimmer Country Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Summer McIntosh Canada 4:29.12 4:29.12
2 Kaylee McKeown  Australia 4:31.74 4:31.74
3 Jenna Forrester Australia 4:36.77 4:36.77
4 Kiah Melverton Australia 4:39.78 4:39.78
5 Tessa Cieplucha Canada 4:39.49 4:37.36

 

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Gheko
4 months ago

Kaylee is not swimming the 400IM

Miss M
Reply to  Gheko
4 months ago

Came here to post this. Confirmed by Australian media she’s out of the 400IM. Will swim 200IM in addition to the backstrokes.

Troyy
Reply to  Gheko
4 months ago

I guess that’s probably the end of the 4IM for Kaylee.

commonwombat
4 months ago

If McIntosh brings her A game to this meet, then she wins the 400 comfortably and it would not surprise to see her take the 200 as well.

McKeown is, by no means, out of the picture and should McIntosh have left her best in Budapest then both races are very much “game on”. In any case, it will be interesting to see her swim the 400 seriously in international waters ….. one suspects it may be the only time we do see this happen this side of Paris.

Bronze in 400 has the potential to be quite tasty with some viable pro/con cases to be made for each of Forrester/Cieplucha & Melverton. Whilst I’d like to see the youngster… Read more »

Bob
4 months ago

Gasson has a seasons best of 2.12.13 (at NZ Nationals in April) and was sick at World Champs (thus the outcome).

Cswim
4 months ago

Why isn’t SMOC’s 2.06 the commie record?

Yozhik
4 months ago

It is hard to say what to expect from Summer McIntosh in 400IM. Not only her 4:29 pace “was extremely different from the pace of Mckeown” but it is same different from what she swam at WC. And it isn’t like she was tired after long meet and every leg was slower that resulted in almost 3sec slowdown. No, it was completely different tactics. Look how different were her halftimes:
4:29.12 (2:09.94 – 2:19.18)
4:32.04 (2:07.97 – 2:24.07)
It looks like it WAS an attempt to improve the personal best by swimming the first half by 2(!!!) seconds faster that ended up in disaster. Yeah, disastrous gold medal ( 😀 ), but finishing the second half by… Read more »

REL
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

If you listen to her SwimSwam interview, she says she pushed too hard on the backstroke at the WC and her intention for the Commonwealth Games is to pace it closer to her pacing in April. She also said her current focus is on improving her breaststroke.

And regardless of how often she might have swum 400 IM in practice, she wouldn’t have been doing it fully tapered. So the impact of the fast first half at WC would have been unknown to her until she did it.

Last edited 4 months ago by REL
Yozhik
Reply to  REL
4 months ago

At her Swimswam interview she said nothing more than technical results told us. Yes, she pushed herself at both first two legs but not at backstroke only. We see it from numbers. But was it intentional? Did she practice it before WC and if she did how good her final results were?
Your notion that different conditions a swimmer is at require different type of efforts distribution between different styles in IM race is interesting. But you are the first one that I am hearing such a thing from. But IM is so weird kind of exercise that I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.
For example, Hosszu’s 4:26. On the first day of competition in Rio. She swims… Read more »

REL
Reply to  Yozhik
4 months ago

[Moved to the second paragraph of my previous comment so that it appears in order.]

Last edited 4 months ago by REL
jpm49
4 months ago

At her best level, we know approximately the times of Kaylee (already confirmed swimmer) on 200 IM and 400 IM, they are formidable! At his best level, we don’t know today those of Summer tomorrow,her margin of progress seems unknown for the moment, but a little worrying for her opponents and perhaps for some reasonable forecasters.

Dee
4 months ago

It wasn’t just lack of form for Abbbie Wood at Worlds, she had glandular fever. Can be a tough recovery but we’ll see how she goes. McKeown will win of she swims. Alicia Wilson is the joker in the pack – A bit like McKeon she has gone unseen this year as she was pre-selected but she swam 2.09 last year.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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