2022 COMMONWEALTH GAMES
- Friday, July 29 – Wednesday, August 3, 2022
- Sandwell Aquatic Center, Birmingham, England
- LCM (50m)
- Meet Central
An exciting six days of swimming wrapped up on Wednesday from the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, with record swims, shocking upsets and breakout performers highlighting the action.
Below, check out some of the biggest takeaways from the competition:
McIntosh’s Range Is Bigger Than We Thought
The main takeaway from these Games, at least as it relates to the 2024 Olympics, is the insane range put on display by Summer McIntosh.
The 15-year-old Canadian, coming off winning a pair of titles in the 200 fly and 400 IM at the World Championships, somehow performed even better at the Commonwealth Games.
McIntosh won gold in the women’s 400 IM in a scorching time of 4:29.01, breaking her Commonwealth Record from March (4:29.12) while going three seconds quicker than she did en route to winning the world title (4:32.04).
While logic tells us that part of the reason why McIntosh was three seconds faster in the 400 IM in Birmingham compared to Budapest was because the event took place on Day 1 at the Games and Day 8 at Worlds, event timing didn’t seem to have much of an effect on her in the 400 free.
At the World Championships, the women’s 400 free was on the opening night, and McIntosh kept Katie Ledecky on her toes en route to winning silver in a new Canadian Record of 3:59.39.
With the event on the final night at the Commonwealth Games, McIntosh somehow went even quicker, 3:59.32, to keep Ariarne Titmus honest throughout the entirety of the race.
On top of that, just minutes after that 400 free swim, McIntosh was back in the water swimming the anchor leg for the Canadian women in the 4×100 medley relay, producing a stunning split of 53.33. Her best time in the 100 free coming into the Games was 55.43, and she led off the 4×100 free relay at the beginning of the meet in 54.62.
Where she found that 53.3 at the end of Day 6 we’ll never know, but it’s clear she’s got the ability to seamlessly step in on the Canadian relays moving forward, even when the big names such as Penny Oleksiak and Taylor Ruck are back in the mix. This particularly works favorably for the Canadians after the departure of longtime reliable relay swimmer Kayla Sanchez, who is hoping to represent the Philippines in the future.
And we can’t forget about McIntosh’s 200 IM.
The Toronto native didn’t swim this event at the Canadian Trials in April, and entered 2022 with a lifetime best of 2:18.42 before bringing it down to 2:10.75 on the Mare Nostrum Tour in May.
Racing head-to-head with world silver medalist Kaylee McKeown in the Commonwealth final (though McKeown had swam the 200 back final 55 minutes earlier), McIntosh stormed to gold in a new World Junior Record of 2:08.70, bettering the mark American Leah Hayes set on the way to winning bronze at the World Championships (2:08.91).
Having also put up a very strong 200 free time of 1:55.24 leading off the Canadian 800 free relay, McIntosh had an overall incredible performance in Birmingham, walking away with six medals.
After emerging in early 2021, prior to the Olympics, she’s now passed the “prove it’ stage of her career. From Tokyo to Budapest o Birmingham, McIntosh is no longer a swimmer on the rise, but an athlete that has fully arrived and is simply a dominant force on the world stage.
But the biggest takeaway from the Commonwealth Games itself is that her talent, her event range, is maybe even greater than we had previously thought.
She could realistically be a medal contender on the international stage in at least six different individual events—200/400/800 free, 200 fly, 200/400 IM—and could also probably do damage in the 100 or 1500 free (100 fly, 200 back?) if she were to train for it.
What she focuses on, and how big her schedule gets in the lead-up to Paris, will be something to keep an eye on.
Peaty Hitting Reset Button
It was a roller-coaster week for Adam Peaty, who clearly wasn’t on the type of form we’re used to seeing from the fastest breaststroker in history.
Coming off a broken foot that caused him to miss the World Championships, Peaty shockingly missed the podium of the men’s 100 breaststroke, an event he had been largely untouchable in for the last eight years (long course).
Although his time from the semis (59.02) was faster than what English teammate James Wilby swam for gold (59.25), Peaty was critical of himself and vowed to take a long break after the Games to hit the reset button.
“It takes time to reflect and to heal. I’m going to take a long break, completely reset, and have a strong winter. I haven’t had a strong winter in 2 years and it’s showing,” he told BBC.
“I’ve got to get back to basics. Something’s gone missing…haven’t felt the spark in it for the last two years…you can get burnout from the sport that you do love…so it’s like how do we find out spark again.”
However, the 27-year-old didn’t go down without a fight, as he went on to win gold in the 50 breast, something that had eluded him in the two previous Games, in front of a raucous home crowd that clearly meant a lot to him.
Now he’ll skip out on the European Championships, which take place later this month in Rome, to give himself some time before hitting a big training block.
Whether or not Peaty will be able to find that “spark” in the coming months will have a significant impact on the landscape of men’s breaststroke over the next two years.
There was also indications from Instagram posts of teammates that this was Peaty’s last Commonwealth Games, meaning he might be hanging up the goggles after Paris.
No Worlds, No Problem
One major storyline that surfaced early this year was just how many big-name swimmers were opting out of racing at the World Championships.
Among those were Australian stars Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon and Kyle Chalmers, who all indicated they were putting their focus on the Commonwealth Games.
Chalmers ended up going to Worlds, only racing the 100 fly individually, and Titmus had showed what kind of form she was on this year after some jaw-dropping swims at the Australian Championships in May.
Among the three, McKeon was the main question mark, given that she had also bypassed the National Championships after having a spot at the Games locked up.
Between her and Titmus, Titmus was the better performer individually, sweeping the women’s 200, 400 and 800 free while setting a Commonwealth Record in the latter.
But McKeon, despite having no high-level racing under her belt since the ISL season in December, swam very well under her usual heavy workload, accumulating eight medals to become the most decorated athlete in Commonwealth Games history.
The 28-year-old was notably very strong in the 50-meter events, including going sub-24 in the 50 free, but was maybe a touch off in the individual 100s, though she showed her ability to step up on relays when she dropped a 51.88 anchor on the mixed medley.
And two other marquee swimmers who were in attendance but sat out of their best event at the World Championships, Chalmers and Maggie MacNeil, performed well, with Chalmers winning the men’s 100 free and posting his third-fastest time ever and MacNeil upending McKeon for gold in the women’s 100 fly.
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker also opted out of Worlds and had a solid performance, though she was well off her best times set at the Olympics last summer. Schoenmaker won a repeat gold in the women’s 200 breaststroke (2:21.96), and added a silver behind teammate Lara van Niekerk in the 100 breast.
Two swimmers who missed the World Championships due to COVID-19, Duncan Scott and Pieter Coetze, also swam well, with Scott securing a pair of golds in the men’s 200 free and 200 IM, and Coetze winning one medal of each color in the men’s backstrokes, including gold in the 100.
TOM DEAN CONTINUES TO EVOLVE
One of the most memorable images of the Games was Tom Dean embracing the English crowd after holding off Australia’s Kyle Chalmers for gold in the men’s 4×100 medley relay, giving Dean his first victory of the meet after a string of runner-up finishes.
Dean had won six silvers prior to that relay, which saw him anchor England home in 47.34 to out-touch Chalmers (46.86 split) and the Australians by eight one-hundredths of a second.
But beyond Dean’s massive medal haul, what stood out at the Games how well his 100 free and 200 IM have continued to progress.
The reigning Olympic champion in the 200 free, Dean has shown flashes of brilliance in both the 100 free and 200 IM before, most notably splitting 46.95 in the 400 free relay at the World Championships.
But things really took another step forward in Birmingham, as the 22-year-old broke 48 seconds for the first time in the men’s 100 free semis (47.83), and then gave Chalmers a good run with a 47.89 clocking for second in the final.
Earlier, on the men’s 400 free relay, he actually made up ground on Chalmers swimming the anchor leg for England, splitting 46.70 on the end.
And then, prior to the medley relay anchor on Wednesday night, Dean had a very impressive showing in the 200 IM final.
Although he wasn’t quite on his best time of 1:56.77 set at the World Championships, finishing second to Duncan Scott in 1:57.01, Dean showed a noteworthy improvement in his breaststroke.
He was the only swimmer in the field to split faster than 34.3, and he was 32.97. When he set his previous best at Worlds, he was 33.61.
Breaststroke, long the Achilles heel holding back free/back/fly specialists from truly excelling in the 200 IM, is something Dean has taken to a new level, making him a true medal contender in the event, if he wants, in Paris.
- It was a mini breakout of sorts for New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt, though he’s already found success internationally with his bronze medal win in the men’s 400 IM at the 2019 World Championships. But in Birmingham, Clareburt dropped a pair of big best times and new Kiwi Records to win double gold in the 200 fly (1:55.60) and 400 IM (4:08.70), and was also faster than he was at the World Championships in the 200 IM (1:57.59) to claim bronze.
- Some swimmers handled the double-taper from Budapest to Birmingham better than others. Names we’ve already touched on, such as McIntosh, Dean and Clareburt, did well. Also performing impressively, under those circumstances, was Mollie O’Callaghan, Kiah Melverton, Elizabeth Dekkers and Lara van Niekerk, to name a few.
- Some swimmers who maybe didn’t perform poorly, but also weren’t at their best, included Zac Stubblety-Cook, Josh Liendo and Luke Greenbank.
- On the women’s side, both Kaylee McKeown and Kylie Masse were solid at both Worlds and the Games, but maybe not at their best at either.
- Shayna Jack, coming off a broken hand sustained during the World Championships, had an impressive meet.
- You have to feel for Chad Le Clos, who started the meet off on a high after tying the all-time Commonwealth medal record with his 18th in the men’s 200 fly (though he was out-touched for gold). But Le Clos ended up missing the final of the 50 fly, took fourth in the 100 fly, and then had an agonizingly close fourth-place finish on the mixed medley relay. With one more medal chance in the men’s medley relay, South Africa was a no-show in the heats due to reported transportation issues. Emma McKeon took over the all-time lead on Tuesday and then extended it in the final event of the meet, the women’s medley relay, giving her 20 medals at the Commonwealth Games.
I have a huge admiration for Summer McIntosh of course, but I regret a little in this superb article the too small place given to this other star who is already Mollie O’Callaghan.
It is not impossible after Paris that we will see Summer and Mollie fight on 200 free under 1:52, maybe.
McIntosh has the 400 IM in the same session, so it will be interesting if she even swims the 200FR. Her schedule was conservative this year, so we’ll have to wait what she does going forward.
400 free women’s Paris Summer , titmus and ledecky wow could be the greatest swim final ever
Female race of the century.
If it happens it’ll be bigger than Thorpe, Hoogie and Phelps.
Summer will go from the youngest in Tokyo to the best in Paris
This is the second time since 2008 we’ve had a swimmer on our hands who could *conceivably* win 8 gold medals at an Olympic Games (the other being Dressel).
And before anyone brings it up, peak Ledecky caps out at a max 7 gold medals given her “limited” event range (insofar as it just consists of freestyle).
I think it’s best to look at individual events. Phelps did 5 in Beijing 100 & 200 Fly, 200 & 400 IM & the 200 free, throw in the 3 relays. He was a freak, not many have tried 5 events.
Shane Gould did in Munich 72 & only won 3 golds, a silver & bronze, she was world record holder in all 5.
Ledecky could’ve won 200, 400, 800 & 1500 in RIO if 1500 was in the program, but 1 short of Phelps & didn’t have all the relays, but then these long events may have hurt her chances in 200.
Dressel also only 3 individual events 50 & 100 free & 100 fly, but has 4… Read more »
Sjostrom was snapping at Ledecky’s heels in the 200 in Rio. If the schedule with a 1500 was like in Tokyo she’d might have ended up with 200 silver plus 1500 gold.
Yes! I would’ve loved to see her win 4 individual golds with potentially 3 individual WR, plus the 200 free but the 1500 would’ve definitely hurt her chances in the 200. I just think it’s amazing that she doesn’t even hold the AR in the 200 as it belongs to Schmitty in one of the best 200 free performances ever.
Can you show your reasoning? These numbers seem really inflated and I have no idea which events you think are “conceivable” gold medals for any of the people you’re talking about?
Which 8 events could Dressel have won? 50/100 Free and 100 fly plus 100 free and medley relays I will obviously give him. Mixed medley relay gives us 6 which is arguable. Even if US used their best team (Smith/Andrew/Dressel/Weitzeil) they still lose to GB anyway. But I’ll include it anyway considering it COULD have happened.
If we’re excluding heat medals, Dressel’s PB isn’t good enough to make a 200 free relay on the US team (his PB would be 9th fastest US male last year), and even if… Read more »
yeah the issue with trying to find swimmers that are genuinely capable of winning 8 gold medals in different events regardless of it being at a single games or not is that theres so much value placed upon you having a good 100/200 free for relays and that the team is a genuine gold medal contender in those relays eg. across 2 Olympics Mckeon has won medals in 8 different events, Sjostrom swims the same events as Emma and Sarah has faster pb’s in those 4 individual events but Sweden isn’t as competitive in relays and so Sarah only has medals in those individual events. And I definitely don’t think Emma is getting gold in the 100 fly and 200… Read more »
If you want to get technical, Emma’s PB in the individual 100 free is faster than Sjostrom’s. Sjostrom has only been faster once and that was on a relay lead off.
I agree with what you’re saying. No one has ever won more than 5 individual medals at a Games (I believe 5 has only happened twice, with Gould and Phelps) so yeah to reach 8 gold is absolutely 100% out of reach for anyone who isn’t an American man or Australian woman.
Agree re Emma in Paris. I see the 50 free and 100 free as her only realistic gold chances in individual events, and they’re the most competitive so I’ll be surprised if she manages them tbh. Her… Read more »
A relay lead off is a perfectly legitimate way to set a 100 free PB so it is technically Sjostrom’s PB.
I know. But Flicker explicitly said “in the individual event”. Sjostrom didn’t set hers in the individual event.
dressel would have needed to go 1:43.45 to beat gbr in tokyo. that was scott’s split and no one else came close to it. there is a lot of unfounded talk about dressel’s potential in the 200 free, but even then there’s no talk of him going 1:43
Kaylee McKeown could easily win 6 medals in Paris, I hope she is able to build up to fitting in a full compliment of back & IM races.
She could easily medal in:
Womens medley relay
Mixed medley relay
Matthew “focusing on Commonwealths” Sates, a Worlds vs. CW comparison:
200 free: Worlds: 1:46.63 CW: 1:47.75
400 free: Worlds: DNS CW: 3:49.69
100 fly: Worlds: 54.17 CW: 54.02
200 IM: Worlds: 1:57.74 CW: 2:01.99
400 IM: Worlds: 4:14.81 CW: 4:16.61
Not only is Summer swimming amazing times in a wide range of races, but I’m not aware of any instance since the beginning of Covid where she has raced poorly, whether a low key time trial or the Olympics at 14. She seems to be completely unaffected by the occasion.
She’s a generational talent!
I think you forgot to mention that a quarter of event winners would have won gold at Worlds
I know recency bias is a thing, but the sheer range of SM’s program and her potential ceiling, along with her eye of the tiger presence makes her feel like the biggest talent since Phelps – she obviously needs to do a LOT to even match Ledecky, let alone surpass her, but she does appear to have the arsenal to do it, and that’s mind boggling.
Reminds me of Shane Gould who also excelled in 100-800 free and 200/400 IM.