Summer McIntosh has been named the Canadian Press female athlete of the year for 2023 after defending her world titles in the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley at the world championships.

The 17-year-old said she is “honored” to receive the award and called it “just really cool.” She is expected to build on her successful year at the Paris Olympics in 2024, but she is keeping a level head.

“What I’m most proud of is just how much I’ve learned about myself and kind of how much I’ve gained from each experience,” McIntosh told CBC. “Going into big meets like a world championship, I don’t really have exact expectations of myself especially when it comes to placement or medals, but I definitely tried to just reach my full potential in each one of my races and I think I did that for the most part.”

After a disappointing 400 freestyle at the world championships, McIntosh rebounded to earn bronze in the 200 freestyle before winning gold in her next two events.

She also helped anchor Canada’s medley relay team to bronze, helping the team qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. McIntosh also set two world record at the Canadian trials in March in the 400 IM and 400 freestyle.

She became the first swimmer in history to hold both of those world records at the same time.

“This time last year, I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d break two world records or previous world records. I think it’s still a bit surreal to be honest,” she said. “That just kind of comes back to trying to just keep my head down and keep working and not focus too much on records like that, but it’s a really cool part and kind of a timestamp in history.”

To end the year, McIntosh beat Katie Ledecky in the 400 freestyle at the U.S. Open in early December, marking the first time that Ledecky had lost the event on U.S. soil in 11 years.

For the first time in 11 years, Katie Ledecky lost a 400-meter freestyle race in a U.S. pool, with Canadian teenager Summer McIntosh taking the title at the U.S. Open on Thursday.

At just 17 years old, McIntosh is no stranger to the international swimming circuit. She even held the world record in the 400 free for three months – before Australia’s Ariarne Titmus took back the crown.

In July, McIntosh entered the world championship as the record holder but placed fourth in the event, while Titmus took the world title and the world record.

“After that race, I learned a lot about how to get back out after it,” McIntosh said Thursday. “I had so many races after that that I was really happy with. No matter how bad one race is, you really get back up and get back into it.”

At the U.S. Open final, she swam a time of 3:59.42, beating Ledecky by 2.96 seconds.

It’s the first time that Ledecky has lost the event in the United States since placing third at the 2012 Olympic trials at 15 years old.

The 2024 Olympics are looming, and McIntosh’s rise has made what seemed to be a two-person race between Titmus and Ledecky much more intriguing. Last March, McIntosh snapped Ledecky’s nine-year domestic win streak in the 200 free.

Ledecky remains undefeated in the United States in the 800 and 1500 free races, and she has been for 13 years.

Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus broke the women’s 400m freestyle world record — and defeated American rival Katie Ledecky and previous world record-holder Summer McIntosh of Canada — at the 2023 World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, on Sunday.

Titmus, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the event, led from 100 meters and ultimately clocked 3:55.38, cutting seven-hundredths off McIntosh’s world record and touching the wall more than three seconds ahead of Ledecky (3:58.73). New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather claimed bronze, while the 16-year-old McIntosh placed fourth.

Titmus, Ledecky, and McIntosh are the three fastest women to ever swim the 400m free and the event was billed as the ‘Race of the Century’ heading into this week’s world championships.

Ledecky owned the world record in the event from 2014 until last year, when Titmus claimed it for herself at Australian Championships. McIntosh then took it over at Canadian Trials in March.

“It wasn’t something (breaking the record) that I had my mind on for this meet,” Titmus told reporters in Japan. “I just wanted to come here and try and swim the way I know I’m capable of. I knew the only way to win — I believed — was to try to take it out (fast) and whoever had as much fight left at the end was going to win it.”

By taking silver, Ledecky claimed the 23rd world championship medal of her career, extending her mark as the most decorated female swimmer in world championship history.

“I think you could just see the world record coming. It’s been a very fast year of swimming and it was kind of predictable that it would be a really fast field,” Ledecky said. “I can’t really complain. My stroke feels good. I feel good in the water. I think all year my 800 has felt better than my 400, so I’m excited about the rest of my week.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone being more dominant than Katie Ledecky. 

But 14-year old Summer McIntosh might just be laying the groundwork. The young Canadian has firmly entrenched herself into the international conversation after dropping an astounding 4:05.13 in the 400-meter freestyle on Thursday evening. 

The time places her second on the all-time list for Canadian women and takes eight seconds off of the old National Age Group record of 4:13.51 that was set by Taylor Ruck, now a double Olympic bronze medalist, in 2015. 

It also marks a 10-second improvement from the best time that McIntosh set a mere three weeks ago, where she swam a 4:15.43. At that meet, McIntosh also set new Canadian National Age Group Records in the 200 free (1:57.65), 800 free (8:35.30) and 1500 free (16:15.19). 

Additionally, those times saw her earn a FINA “A” cut in the 1500 free and put her name amongst the fastest Canadians ever in all three events. 

But what makes last night’s performance so astounding is that, while there are no reliable all-time global rankings for 14 year olds available, it’s likely that her swim is the fastest ever by someone her age. 

According to FINA databases, the fastest time by a 14 year old in the last decade was a 4:06.83, swum by China’s Liu Zixuan at the 2014 Chinese National Championships. There are reports of a 4:05.75 done by Chinese 13-year old Xu Danlu at the 2012 Asian Swimming Championships, though the result doesn’t appear in FINA’s database. 

The fastest Ledecky ever was in the event at the age of 14 was 4:09.30. Ledecky was just past her 15th birthday when she placed third at Olympic Trials in the 400 with a time of 4:05.00. 

For further comparison: Ledecky swam an 8:30.14 in the 800 free in February 2012 at the age of 14 before unloading an 8:14.63 at the 2012 Olympics at the age of 15, stunning the world as she took home gold. While McIntosh’s 8:35.30 is a bit slower than Ledecky’s at that age, her improvements in other events suggest McIntosh could be in for a big drops in the event in the coming months, much like Ledecky. 

McIntosh is slated to swim the 800 freestyle Friday night, which will be a further indicator of just how good the 14-year old is — and has the potential to be.