BUDAPEST, Hungary – Fifteen-year-old Summer McIntosh made history on Saturday and Canada’s women’s 4×100-m freestyle relay also won silver to open the FINA World Swimming Championships.
McIntosh, from the High Performance Centre – Ontario, became the first Canadian to win a world championship medal in the women’s 400-metre freestyle with a silver in national record time.
‘’I’ve definitely learned so much in the past year,’’ said McIntosh, fourth in the event at the Olympics in 2021. ‘’(I learned) how to execute a 400 freestyle and I’m so happy with how I swam it. It’s given me a lot of confidence going into the next couple of races.’’
Only the legendary Katie Ledecky of the U.S., could beat the young Canadian. The 25-year-old Ledecky, a 17-time world champion, regained her world title in the event winning in a championship record 3:58.15.
McIntosh was on her heels the entire race finishing in 3:59.39. Leah Smith of the U.S. was third in 4:02.08.
‘’It’s a bit surreal,’’ admitted McIntosh. ‘’I used to find quotes from Katie Ledecky on the internet and make them into posters. It’s crazy, she’s definitely one of my idols and to be able to race her and to keep up to her as close as possible, it’s such cool experience I never thought I would have.’’
McIntosh grabbed second spot on the third length and beat her previous national mark of 4:01.59 set at the Canadian Swimming Trials in April.
She is the fourth swimmer in history to go under four minutes.
‘’I never thought I would ever be under four minutes in the 400 freestyle,’’ she said. ‘’I remember it was a big deal to break five minutes, so under four is really special.’’
The FINA World Championships have been held since 1973 and the previous best Canadian result in the women’s 400-free was a fourth for Brittany Reimer in 2005.
Not to be outdone were Canada’s women’s 4×100 free relay. In the final, Kayla Sanchez, Taylor Ruck, Margaret Mac Neil and Penny Oleksiak clocked 3:32.15.
They were second to Australia first in 3:30.95 and ahead of the Americans third in 3:32.58.
‘I was nervous, I haven’t seriously raced in awhile,’’ said Oleksiak, Canada’s most decorated Olympian with seven medals after a triple podium performance in Tokyo. ‘’It was over so fast. Overall, I think we were feeling confident.’’
Mac Neil had some concerns going into today’s action.
‘’I had the biggest back spasm of my life yesterday, it was definitely scary,’’ she said. ‘’But I knew I wanted to get better today and really quick so I could do it for these girls.’’
‘’I love being lead-off,’’ added Sanchez, who trains with Oleksiak and Mac Neil at HPC-Ontario. ‘’It’s a big role and an honour to be the person selected to swim first for this team. I really wanted to do well for them.’’
Katerine Savard of Montreal’s Club CAMO and Rebecca Smith of the University of Calgary swam in the preliminaries and will also receive a medal.
Oleksiak is now the most decorated Canadian swimmer at worlds with six medals, Smith moves into a tie with Kylie Masse for second place with five. Mac Neil and Ruck are up to four. It’s a first worlds medal for the veteran Savard, 29.
‘’I’m so lucky to have these girls I’ve been swimming with for so many years now,’’ said Smith. ‘’They are some of my closest friends and it’s awesome to do what I love with them.’’
In the men’s 4×100-m freestyle relay, the U.S. took the gold in 3:09.34 followed by Australia in 3:10.80 and Italy in third in 3:10.95.
Canada was sixth with Joshua Liendo, Ruslan Gaziev, Javier Acevedo and Yuri Kisil in 3:11.99. Liendo and Kisil are based at HPC-Ontario.
‘’We fought as hard as we could,’’ said Liendo, the lead-off swimmer in a personal best 47.87, his first time under 48 seconds from a flat start. ‘’My goal was to get out fast and hold on the rest of the way.’’
Mary-Sophie Harvey of Montreal’s Club CAMO notched a personal best in her prelims and semifinal clocking 2:10.22 to rank fourth going into Sunday’s women’s 200-m individual medley.
‘’This morning I was pleasantly surprised with the time,’’ said Harvey. ‘’In the semi I was thinking more about the placing, it was definitely harder.
Sydney Pickrem of HPC-Ontario ranked 11th and did not advance.
In the women’s 100-metre butterfly, Savard and Smith were 11th and 12th in the semifinals in 57.98 and 58.15. They did not advance.
‘’Those are pretty good times but I’m disappointed to miss the final,’’ said Savard. The former Canadian record holder was 16th in the event at the Olympic Games last year.
Mac Neil, the defending Olympic and world champion in the event, announced before the meet she was focusing on the relays at this year’s worlds.
Eliminated in the morning preliminaries were Collyn Gagné of Milton, Ont., 14th in the men’s 400 IM in 4:17.85 and Jeremy Bagshaw of Victoria 21st in the men’s 400 free in 3:50.73.
‘’It was a great start to the world championships,’’ said John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s Director, High Performance and National Coach. ‘’Seven swimmers at the end of day one, are medallists. That’s great for the team. It’s great to see the numbers.
‘’The relay concept we’ve been working to is continuing and we are delighted with both performances and seeing Summer step up.
‘’The men’s relay did a great job to make the final and continuing to keep Canada right there among the best in the world despite missing some faces from last year.
‘’The coaches have all worked really hard with their athletes since the trials and done a fantastic job getting their athletes ready to be here and ready to go on Day One.’’
Action continues for the 27 Canadian pool swimmers until next Saturday with preliminary heats at 3 a.m. ET / 12 a.m. PT. Finals start at 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT daily. All finals will be livestreamed on CBC Sports digital platforms: the free CBC Gem streaming service, cbcsports.ca, and the CBC Sports app for iOS and Android devices.
The world championships run through July 3, with open water swimming to follow the pool competition. Canada won eight medals in the pool (2 gold, six bronze) and one (bronze) in open water at the 2019 edition of the event in Gwangju, South Korea.