Summer McIntosh Entered Olympics Without Expectations, Surprised by Performance

14-year-old Summer McIntosh was a force at the 2020 Olympic Games, placing 4th overall in the women’s 400 Freestyle. McIntosh was one of the youngest swimmers at the Games, Now, back in Canada, McIntosh sat down with SwimSwam’s Coleman Hodges to reflect upon her first Olympic Games, along with her preparation leading up to them, which she described as “the best experience of my life.”

McIntosh first entered the international swimming scene post-quarantine, when she posted a time of 4:05.13 in the 400 freestyle. At the time, McIntosh had just recently joined the High-Performance Center in Ontario, alongside fellow Olympians such as Penny Oleksiak, Kylie Masse, and Taylor Ruck. In reference to her decision to switch to the HPC, McIntosh explained, “Well, my coach passed away. I needed some change, so I moved to Ontario in the summer and began training with them.”

“Going into it was a very surreal moment. I was especially nervous because they’re such big names in the swimming world, and I was young and I didn’t know what to feel. But, the second I got there, I felt so welcomed by all of them, and they were so nice to me. So, that was a really cool moment.”

McIntosh also acknowledged the difficulties in her situation, “Adjusting to new coaches, new teammates, and a new training center certainly was a big change,” McIntosh said, “but it was a needed change, and it’s something that I’ll cherish forever.”

Going into her first Olympic Games, McIntosh faced a lot of pressure as a rising star within Canadian swimming. However, she said that she did not let that set her expectations. “I didn’t have an expectation for where I wanted to finish or what times I wanted to post,” McIntosh said. I just wanted to try my best and see where that would take me.”

In fact, McIntosh said she was actually surprised by how she performed at the Games. “I did not ever think I’d do as well as I did. [In the 400 freestyle] I had no expectations to make the final, it was such a surreal moment. So, I was just really excited to have that opportunity to race amazing athletes from all over the world, especially Katie Ledecky.”

McIntosh also acknowledged the lessons that she’s taken from her first Olympics, getting acclimated to her first international competition. “At the Olympics, I learned a lot,” McIntosh explained, ”how to recover better, how to sleep better, how to train better, how to mentally prepare better, just doing everything possible to make sure that I perform my best.”

“Honestly, it hasn’t sunken in yet. Going forward, I’m going to work harder and do everything possible to keep improving.”

McIntosh is set to represent the Toronto Titans in this year’s edition of the International Swimming League, which will be her next competition.

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oldandretired
1 month ago

4 Golds in 2024

Khachaturian
Reply to  oldandretired
1 month ago

idk, we might see a couple more names in this new generation of swimming before that happens

Bill G
Reply to  oldandretired
1 month ago

Expectations management. In the post Rio 2016 glow, I’m trying to think what my expecatations were for Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck. One individual bronze probably wasn’t it.

Or Missy Franklin after London 2012?

Canuswim
Reply to  Bill G
1 month ago

Of course. Athletes sometimes continue to improve and others don’t, in any sport, at any age, at any level. You get credit for “I called it” for those that don’t! Way to go!

There's no doubt that he's tightening up
1 month ago

What a champ.

She swam so fearlessly, having never previously competed at a meet near this level. 1.55 and 4.02, absolutely ridiculous.

WahooSwimFan
1 month ago

She’s a future star no doubt, but wonder for a 14 year old – what is in it for her to represent Toronto Titans in the ISL? At age 14, she undoubtedly has schooling, and needs a parent or guardian to travel, and by competing in the ISL she forgoes the opportunity to eventually get a college scholarship. But the ISl prizes/compensation seems low in relation to what she bears in expenses and gives up in future opportunities – why do the ISL? Sure the top ISL swimmers make a decent living from their efforts, but it seems like most barely break even and ISL doesn’t seem well suited for a distance swimmer to earn a lot.

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  WahooSwimFan
1 month ago

Even more of an issue is that you need to be a sprinter to get the big ISL dollars. There is no 4×2 relay so only the 400 Free.

Bill G
Reply to  The unoriginal Tim
1 month ago

200 fly and 400 IM may also be in Summer’s toolkit (she finaled in those events at 2019 Canadian Worlds Trials). Although, I’m skeptical that it makes sense for a 14 year-old to compete in ISL.

oldandretired
Reply to  Bill G
1 month ago

Why not? She beats 99% of the ISL swimmers at the olympicw

Bill G
Reply to  oldandretired
1 month ago

I wasn’t thinking from a competitivenss standpoint, but more from a personal growth and development perspective. Be a teenager? Hang with friends? Go to school? Avoid swimming burnout? Plenty of time to swim as a “professional” as Sjostrom, Campbell, Kromowidjojo, Blume have shown.

Laneline
Reply to  Bill G
1 month ago

Why do you think she is not being a teenager, hanging with friends or going to school or having fun? You are either pretending to be close to family or just enjoy assuming the worst for drama. Good for her for capitalizing on racing opportunities at ISL and maybe she will not do entire season so she can go to school, etc Also maybe Summer doesn’t want to swim until 30yrs old and instead wants to use her education to be a professional business person vs. swimmer, what a concept!

oldandretired
Reply to  WahooSwimFan
1 month ago

NCAA is lame, go pro and aid in making swimming mainstream FTW

Swim2021
Reply to  WahooSwimFan
1 month ago

Completely agree with you. Unsure what the purpose of ISL at such a young age.. doubtful it is financial need and why would a parent want their young daughter be in a bubble with athletes 2x her age.. parents need to give their heads a shake.
Summer has a huge future but she should take the time to be a kid!

Canids I
Reply to  Swim2021
1 month ago

Summer just went away for a month half way across the world racing and hanging out with athletes twice her age.

Whoknows?
Reply to  Swim2021
1 month ago

So I guess you also feel Summer should have also not gone to Tokyo away from home, in a bubble, hanging out and racing swimmers twice her age. Not much thought put into that comment.

Rooky coach
Reply to  Swim2021
1 month ago

Summer’s future is bright thanks to her parents. Both of them have MBAs (her mom was an NCAA swimmer herself), very well planned and executed careers. etc. Managing their second in-home-grown world-stage athlete is just perfect! Did you notice how little Summer is present in social media, even at other people’s pics ? Did you notice that this interview is without video, etc. etc? They are guarding her and her interests very well. They ‘ve definitely anticipated what is coming their way and planned and prepared themselves really well. They know what they are doing

M Palota
Reply to  WahooSwimFan
1 month ago

You can swim ISL and maintain your U-Sports eligibility. (U-Sports in the body that governs Canadian university sports.)

Bill G
Reply to  M Palota
1 month ago

Yes – I believe Kayla Sanchez is going to UBC and doing ISL.

Jane
Reply to  M Palota
1 month ago

Yes, that’s why Kayla is swimming for UBC

Arthur
Reply to  M Palota
1 month ago

Beyond still being eligible in Canada, if she only improves a little bit by 2024 she will still be too young to have started university and should go pro at that point anyway.

Jane
Reply to  WahooSwimFan
1 month ago

Canadian universities don’t have a limit of how much money athletes can make. Or she can choose to forgo scholarships.

M d e
Reply to  WahooSwimFan
1 month ago

Not everyone wants a US college scholarship.

She’s a chance of winning world championship medals as soon as next year. The time to earn money is now for her, not wait 8 years.

Laneline
Reply to  M d e
1 month ago

Agree. Lots of excellent options for education outside NCAA in Canada or Europe and actually use education to enter the business world vs swim until 30 yrs old? Smart move to capitalize during prime years like most other sports do and then get on with other interests in life!

Admin
Reply to  Laneline
1 month ago

Lanline/Canuswim/Who Knows? – Please stick to one username within any given comments section. Thanks!

ScovaNotiaSwimmer
1 month ago

As much as I would have loved Canada to get a silver medal in the 4×2…

Pacific Whirl
1 month ago

Even though Franziska Van Almsick won silver at age 14, she had no Olympic gold in her belt throughout her career.

Aquajosh
Reply to  Pacific Whirl
1 month ago

She won two silvers and two bronze at 14. She has 10 Olympic medals (four silver, six bronze) total. Summer would pass Penny by three medals and become Canada’s most decorated non-Paralympic athlete if she had the same career as Franzi.

Lacticacidlord
1 month ago

I’ve seen her swim at Ontario competitions since she was 10, and I knew she would go on to do great things on the international stage. But I didn’t expect it to happen so soon!

Tom Dean Boxall
1 month ago

She and Titmus 1 and 2 in 200 400 and 800 in 2024??

Marklewis
1 month ago

If she keeps improving she’s going to be on the WC podiums very soon.

She’s still learning how to pace the longer events.

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is an active …

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