arena Swim of the Week: Summer McIntosh’s 800 Free Stuns In More Ways Than One (Race Video)

Swim of the Week is brought to you by arena, a SwimSwam partner.

Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Summer McIntosh unloaded a truly shocking performance on Thursday night at the Southern Zone Sectionals in Orlando.

Even for McIntosh, who has proven she can do the unthinkable, her swim in the 800 free turned heads and left commenters with their jaws on the floor.

At a lowkey, early February meet during the opening night of distance events, McIntosh put up a time of 8:11.39 in the 800 free, a clocking that only one swimmer, all-time great Katie Ledecky, has ever been faster than. Ledecky happened to be racing alongside McIntosh, finishing some six seconds back (5.73) in what was her first loss in an 800 free final in nearly 14 years.

Facts About McIntosh’s Swim:

  • Ranks #2 all-time to Katie Ledecky
  • Marks a near nine-second best time for McIntosh, who had previously been 8:20.19 in February 2023
  • Her previous PB ranked #33 all-time
  • Shatters the near decade-old Canadian Record of 8:20.02 by more than eight and a half seconds, set by Brittany MacLean at the 2014 Pan Pacs
  • Takes more than two seconds off the Commonwealth Record of 8:13.59, initially set by Australian Ariarne Titmus at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and then matched by Titmus at the 2023 World Championships en route to the bronze medal
  • Fell 39 one-hundredths shy of Ledecky’s World Junior Record of 8:11.00, set in June 2014 (under the new rules, which allows female swimmers to set WJR in their 18th year, Ledecky’s mark would stand at 8:07.39—McIntosh will turn 18 in August)
  • Would have won the Tokyo Olympic final over Ledecky (8:12.57)
  • McIntosh’s first 400 split of 4:03.63
    • Would rank #3 all-time in Canada behind only herself and MacLean (4:03.43)
    • Would have finished 6th (5th taking out herself) in the 2023 World Championship final of the 400 free
    • Would rank 6th (5th taking out herself) in the 2023-24 world rankings in the 400 free
  • McIntosh’s second 400 split of 4:07.76
    • Would rank #9 all-time in Canada in the 400 free, with only herself, MacLean and Emily Overholt having been sub-4:07
    • Would have been 11th (10th taking out herself) at the 2023 World Championships in the 400 free
    • Would rank 19th (18th taking out herself) in the 2023-24 world rankings in the 400 free
  • Not a fact, but a subjective opinion shared by most: The 800 free would have to be regarded as McIntosh’s sixth-best event, at best, coming into the meet—possibly even #7 given she ranks 28th all-time in the 200 back and was 33rd in the 800 free coming in

We’ve certainly become conditioned to expect excellence from Ledecky in the women’s distance events, and before every major international meet, it’s been a foregone conclusion that she’ll cruise to victories in the 800 and 1500. Her world record is still more than six and a half seconds clear of McIntosh’s time, and she’s been faster 16 times.

The response to McIntosh’s swim just speaks to how dominant Ledecky has been.

All-Time Performances, Women’s 800 Freestyle (LCM)

  1. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:04.79 – 2016
  2. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:06.68 – 2016
  3. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:07.07 – 2023
  4. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:07.27 – 2018
  5. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:07.39 – 2015
  6. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:08.04 – 2022
  7. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:08.87 – 2023
  8. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:09.13 – 2018
  9. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:09.27 – 2022
  10. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:10.32– 2016
  11. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:10.70 – 2019
  12. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:10.91 – 2016
  13. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:11.00 – 2014
  14. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:11.08 – 2018
  15. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:11.21 – 2015
  16. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:11.35 – 2014
  17. Summer McIntosh (CAN), 8:11.39 – 2024
  18. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:11.50 – 2017
  19. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:11.70 – 2018
  20. Katie Ledecky (USA), 8:11.83 – 2022

All-Time Performers, Women’s 800 Freestyle (LCM)

  1. Katie Ledecky, United States — 8:04.79 (2016)
  2. Summer McIntosh, Canada — 8:11.39 (2024)
  3. Li Bingjie, China — 8:13.31 (2023)
  4. Ariarne Titmus, Australia — 8:13.59 (2022/2023)
  5. Rebecca Adlington, Great Britain — 8:14.10 (2008)

Alongside Ledecky losing one of her pet events handily, the most jarring sight in the race was to see McIntosh pull away down the stretch.

Split Comparison

McIntosh Ledecky
28.10 28.16
58.72 (30.62) 58.24 (30.08)
1:29.33 (30.61) 1:28.78 (30.54)
1:59.81 (30.48) 1:59.66 (30.88)
2:30.65 (30.84) 2:30.61 (30.95)
3:01.65 (31.00) 3:02.05 (31.44)
3:32.57 (30.92) 3:33.33 (31.28)
4:03.63 (31.06) 4:04.67 (31.34)
4:34.56 (30.93) 4:36.03 (31.36)
5:05.63 (31.07) 5:06.96 (30.93)
5:36.49 (30.86) 5:37.96 (31.00)
6:07.45 (30.96) 6:09.49 (31.53)
6:38.43 (30.98) 6:41.25 (31.76)
7:09.69 (31.26) 7:13.28 (32.03)
7:41.01 (31.32) 7:45.56 (32.28)
8:11.39 (30.38) 8:17.12 (31.56)


Moving forward, we don’t know if McIntosh will race the 800 free at the Olympics. Although she was a distance prodigy from a young age, she hasn’t seriously contested the event internationally of late, primarily focusing on the 200 and 400 free, 200 fly, and the 200 and 400 IM.

In Paris, the 800 free will conflict with the 200 IM, an event McIntosh ranked #1 in the world in last year.

See arena North America here.

Follow arena USA on Instagram here.

About arena

arena has revolutionized the world of aquatic sport through insightful collaboration with world class athletes and the development of cutting edge competitive swimwear since 1973. Today, this spirit of collaboration and innovation lives on through a continuous evolution of advanced materials and Italian design that improves the performance, style and expression of all those who chose arena. From leading the lanes to living in style, arena is dedicated to providing all swimmers with the tools they need to express themselves, feel confident, win and achieve more. Because in arena, you can.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tony Tim
2 months ago

I’d reserve judgement on the 800 Free until after Ledecky responds. She’s been fast in the last couple of years and will most likely want to fire down her own marker.

That said , I’m unsurprised by McIntosh continuing to rise at an incredible rate. She is a monster with loads of time on her side and buckets of scope to improve in a wide range of events. Great things to come, this is going to be an outstanding time.

2 months ago

Load management will play a role in what Summer swims at the Olympics. Relays notwithstanding, both the 800 free and 200IM will be hotly contested. If Summer opts for the 800 Free, I think you’re right – it will be a dogfight to the end. Summer could and probably would win. If its the 200IM, Summer will have to contend with Kate Douglass, Kaylee McKeown and Alex Walsh. Again it will be dogfight and fingers crossed Summer wins! Whatever events she and her coaches select – they will all be a swims for the ages. Competition is that tight for all the races except maybe the 1500 Free.

Awsi Dooger
2 months ago

Summer would receive exponentially more credit for defeating Ledecky in an Olympic 800 final than she would for breaking the world record at 200 individual medley. That can be easily accomplished later. I hope Summer has great clarity on this matter, along with her coaches. This has legacy implications.

The chart of best times is very instructive. Only 4 times in the past 4 years has Ledecky been faster than Summer was last night. Ledecky in Paris would already have the 400 and 1500 in her legs, along with 4 x 200 relay. There’s a considerable chance that Summer could win the 800 gold medal with the same time as yesterday, or only modestly quicker.

Ledecky is not declining… Read more »

Viking Steve
2 months ago


This just confirms that distance free is a young person’s event AND that Katie Ledecky’s consistent greatness may never be replicated.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »