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Summer McIntosh still in shock over setting world record

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After making it look easy in the water, Summer McIntosh is having a hard time accepting she is a world record holder.

The 16-year-old Toronto native set the world record in the 400-metre freestyle on Tuesday’s opening night of the Bell Canadian Swimming Trials by winning her race in three minutes, 56.08 seconds. That broke the old mark 3:56.40 set in May by Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia.

“I don’t know if it ever will fully sink in,” said McIntosh, who shaved more than three seconds off her Canadian record of 3:59.32 set at last summer’s Commonwealth Games. “I definitely did not expect that going (into the race). It’s one of the most amazing experiences that I have experienced in swimming so far.

“It’s any athlete’s dream to get a world record or to achieve something like that. I still am in pretty much complete shock.”

Having family and friends cheering in the loud crowd at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre made the experience even sweeter.

“It was just such an incredible moment to share with all the Canadians in the stands and a bunch of my family and friends that were on the deck,” she said.

The win earned McIntosh a spot on the Swimming Canada team that will compete at the World Aquatics Championships July 14-30 in Fukuoka, Japan. She was second in the 400-m freestyle at last year’s world championships in Budapest.

“I try not to let races give me confidence,” said McIntosh, a product of the Etobicoke Swim Club who recently relocated to Florida to train with the coach Brent Arckey with the Sarasota Sharks. “It’s very nice what I just did but I really try to focus on my training, which gives me confidence.”

McIntosh is the first Canadian to set a world record in a long-course Olympic event, performing at home, since Allison Higson set the 200-m breaststroke record at the 1988 Canadian Olympic Trials in Montreal.

John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s high performance director and national coach, said McIntosh’s “unbelievably great” performance reverberates beyond swimming.

“The amount of media interest is not just sports journalists but news journalists,” said Atkinson. “That is a reflection of what we’ve been able to do with the support we’ve had from Own the Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Sport Canada which has allowed us to be able to build a program and refine it.”

McIntosh is the youngest member of a women’s program that includes Penny Oleksiak, a seven-time Olympic medallist, Olympic gold medallist Margaret Mac Neil, and Kylie Masse, a four-time Olympic medallist and former world record holder in the 100-m backstroke.

“Overall, Swimming Canada’s team has really gotten on the scene and we’ve really kind of grown,” said McIntosh. “That comes from the team culture and everyone surrounding us.

“We kind of motivate each other every day to get better. It’s not just one person but it takes an entire team.”The last few years have been a whirlwind for McIntosh. She burst onto the international scene at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as a 14-year-old who finished fourth in the 400-m freestyle.

At last year’s world championships she won gold in the 200-m butterfly and the 400 individual medley, plus was part of the 4×200-m freestyle relay that earned bronze.

McIntosh has managed to remain collected and humble despite living in the spotlight’s glare.

“That comes from being surrounded by so many amazing people that have been through very similar situations and have spent a lot more time in the sport,” she said.

“People from Swimming Canada, the coaches and my teammates, have taught me so much the past few years and I’m really grateful for that.”

Setting a world record on the first day of the meet won’t be a distraction for McIntosh who also will race the 200-m butterfly, the 200 freestyle plus 200 and 400-m IM.

“It’s something I’ve learned to do throughout the big meets,” she said. “Try to stay in the zone as much as possible.”

“I’ve started to kind of master it but it definitely is something you have to think about.” Atkinson said McIntosh still has plenty of potential to tap.

“I don’t like to set targets,” he said. “I like to say, you can actually go way beyond. Don’t limit yourself.”