Canadian swimming sensation Summer McIntosh has sent yet another shockwave across the swimming world by defeating American legend Katie Ledecky in the 800 metre freestyle.
McIntosh touched the wall in a national record time of 8:11.39, beating Ledecky's time of 8:17.12 – a nearly six second gap. Ledecky had not lost an 800m for more than 13 years.
That makes McIntosh the second-fastest performer ever in the 800m. Her time would have won gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
Prior to Thursday night's race, Ledecky owned the top-30 fastest times ever and she is the three-time defending Olympic champion in the distance. McIntosh's time is now the 17th fastest ever – Ledecky still owns the top-16 times.
McIntosh now holds six Canadian records after surpassing Brittany MacLean's 800m time of 8:20.02 posted a decade ago.
The 17-year-old from Toronto was in control from start to finish, Thursday in Orlando at Southern Zone South Sectional Championships. Both McIntosh and Ledecky were essentially tied after 200m but that's when the Canadian started to make her move.
By the midway point of the race McIntosh had a half-body lead on Ledecky and started to pull away.
The generational talent kept surging with each stroke to build an insurmountable lead the rest of the way.
The 800m has not been McIntosh's priority or even part of her Olympic program but the Canadian teen was using this experience to get in some valuable distance training.
McIntosh is also entered to compete in the 100m backstroke, 50m and 100m freestyle events as well as the 200m breaststroke.
Ledecky and McIntosh are both sitting out the world aquatics championships set to begin in Doha, Qatar on Sunday.
And they aren't the only swimming superstars sitting out these world championships – on the Canadian side, big names like Josh Liendo, Kylie Masse, Maggie Mac Neil and Ilya Kharun are also opting out of the international meet.
This is the third world championship in the past year and a half, mostly because the pandemic threw the timing of worlds into disarray. It meant a worlds in Budapest in the summer of 2022, another worlds last summer in Fukuoka, Japan and now this third world championship in short order being held in Doha.
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The past two world championships have been highly successful for Canada, with 11 medals won in 2022 and six more medals won at worlds in Japan last summer.
But this is going to be a very different competition not only from the Canadian perspective but for many other countries as well.
Powerhouse Australia and the United States have sent smaller teams bereft of their superstars. Canada's team consists of 22 swimmers, 13 women and nine men, who are preparing for competition beginning on Sunday.
There are a number of reasons for many of the stars not to attend – mostly everyone who needs to lock up Olympic spots has already done so, the NCAA calendar conflicts with these worlds and for many, having to peak once again for a worlds this close to the Olympics is just too much.
There are some experienced swimmers competing for Canada including world medallist Javier Acevedo, Sophie Angus, Emma O'Croinin, Sydney Pickrem, Taylor Ruck, Katerine Savard, Rebecca Smith and Ingrid Wilm are among the veterans on the roster.
Other veterans include Olympians Tessa Cieplucha and Finlay Knox, who won gold in the 200m IM gold at the Pan Am Games this past October.
This will be important training time for these swimmers who will all have a shot at the podium in Doha – there is also money on the line for swimmers who make it into the finals.
Seven Canadians are making their long-course world championship debut in Doha, including Sienna Angove, Stephen Calkins, Ella Cosgrove, Sarah Fournier, Ashley McMillan, Antoine Sauve and Blake Tierney.
Relay times from Doha will be ranked against those from last year's worlds to determine the 16 countries qualified for each relay in Paris.
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