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.
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.