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14-year-old Summer time McIntosh’s grief-stricken path to Olympics required lifetime of perseverance

In June, Summer time McIntosh stood on the Toronto Pan Am Sports activities Centre pool deck after defeating four-time Olympic medallist Penny Oleksiak to win the 200-metre freestyle race and qualify for Tokyo 2020. 

The 14-year-old from Etobicoke, Ont., was beaming behind her masks as she tried to catch her breath on the Canadian Olympic swimming trials. 

“You understand, it is simply loopy. I do not even know what to say. I am simply speechless,” she mentioned, huffing and puffing. “It has been such a loopy yr for everybody. I am simply actually comfortable.”

The teen is now in Tokyo, as Canada’s youngest swimmer on the 2020 Olympic Video games. Amid the challenges the entire athletes there have endured whereas attempting to coach all through the COVID-19 pandemic, Summer time McIntosh has additionally been dealing with the demise of her coach in addition to the most cancers prognosis of her father, who’s now recovering.

“I am nonetheless processing all the pieces. It would not really feel actual but,” she mentioned in a latest interview. “Nevertheless it’s been nice to see my onerous work come to life and see that arduous work at all times pays off.” 

Again in June, the Canadian Olympic swimming trials had been held on Father’s Day and the swimmer’s dad, Greg McIntosh, was introduced up on the large display contained in the venue for a post-race interview.

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“That is my dad,” Summer time mentioned, smiling as her eyes lit up. She waved.

Greg, appeared to nearly be perplexed, earlier than he composed himself. 

“She works so onerous. It is so superb to see her get rewarded for the onerous work she places in,” he mentioned. “She deserves this.

“And Summer time, I am so, so comfortable for you.”

WATCH | McIntosh edges Oleksiak at Olympic trials:

14-year-old Summer time McIntosh broke her personal Canadian age group document for 13-14 year-olds with a time of 1:56.19 within the ladies’s 200-metre freestyle occasion on the Canadian Olympic Swimming Trials. 11:30

That was the primary time in weeks Greg McIntosh had been off the bed. He is been battling most cancers since January. 

“He ought to have received an Academy Award for that as a result of he actually hadn’t left the mattress,” mentioned Jill McIntosh, Greg’s spouse and Summer time’s mom. “That was his first time getting within the bathe and having a shirt on.”

When Greg was recognized with most cancers in January, the household made the tough determination to to separate up geographically to attenuate the COVID-19 threat. Greg moved into a spot close to the Princess Margaret Most cancers Centre in downtown Toronto, Jill and Summer time rented a rental close to the pool in Scarborough, Ont., and Greg and Jill’s different daughter Brooke —  a aggressive pairs determine skater who competed on the 2020 Youth Olympics — stayed on the household residence in close by Etobicoke. 

“When Brooke was skating I might go to the home and fill the fridge up. I could not keep up a correspondence together with her,” Jill mentioned. “After which with Greg I might triple-mask and assist him after I might.

“You simply sort of go into mama bear mode. You simply must get by way of. I needed to take someday at a time, like a swimmer. And never be too scared concerning the future.”

Jill McIntosh, Summer time’s mom, represented Canada on the 1984 Summer time Olympic Video games. (Jill McIntosh)

Jill competed on the 1984 Olympics within the pool for Canada. 

She was doing all the pieces in her energy to assist preserve Summer time targeted and pushing towards her objective of qualifying for Tokyo.

In the meantime, Summer time was nonetheless mourning the lack of her longtime coach, Kevin Thorburn, who died in April 2020.  

… she misplaced her coach by way of all of this all of the sudden. After which her dad. The trials on, trials off. She rolls with the punches fairly properly.– Jill McIntosh on daughter Summer time


“Everybody has had their battles throughout this pandemic. However she misplaced her coach by way of all of this, all of the sudden. It was devastating for her and everybody,” Jill mentioned. “After which utterly turning her coaching the wrong way up and transferring to the centre. After which her dad. The trials on, trials off.

“She rolls with the punches fairly properly. I’m so happy with her.”

Now, the 14-year-old is at her first Olympics, throughout a pandemic, with out her household. 

Summer time was in a position to see her dad, who the household says is on the highway to restoration, earlier than she headed off to a staging camp in Vancouver for greater than per week in July. Jill additionally flew to Vancouver for just a few days to spend time together with her daughter earlier than Summer time left for the Video games.

Summer time McIntosh, left, and her mom Jill. (Submitted by Jill McIntosh)

“My mother is simply so supportive. She drives me and does all the pieces she will be able to to assist me really feel prepared,” Summer time mentioned. “She’s  … consoling if I’ve a nasty race. She’s simply superb.”

Jill says she is aware of what labored for her as an athlete and is attempting to create an surroundings for her daughter to thrive in. Meaning giving her house, she says. 

WATCH | McIntosh able to develop into youngest Canadian athlete in Tokyo:

Summer time McIntosh, 14, reacts to being named to Canada’s Olympic swim group. She’ll be the youngest member of the group competing on the Tokyo Video games. 1:16

“One of the crucial success elements of any athlete is the coach-athlete relationship,” Jill mentioned. “Should you begin to muck with that it is not good. It isn’t a fantastic path for a father or mother to repeatedly interject.

“I attempt to be so supportive of that.”

Summer time and her sister are finest pals. They began swimming collectively at a really younger age. Jill says Brooke was truly most likely the higher swimmer to start with.

The 2 are supportive of one another, checking in with each other once they’re at competitions and at all times wanting one of the best for one another.

Summer time receives her medal after successful the ladies’s 800-metre freestyle on the Canadian Olympic swimming trials in June. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

‘Summer time simply favored to race’

Summer time additionally skated when she was youthful, however whereas Brooke gravitated towards skating, Summer time most well-liked “the objectivity” of swimming, Jill mentioned.

“She favored realizing her time. Summer time simply favored to race and know precisely the place she stood,” Jill mentioned. “I am sort of glad they each picked completely different sports activities. I do not know what would have occurred.

“It is enjoyable to have two sports activities within the household.”

Greg says it is “unbelievable” to have a front-row seat to the three ladies in his life reaching athletic success. 

“It is an absolute thrill to observe this all,” he mentioned.

5 years in the past, Brooke and Summer time took a photograph with Penny Oleksiak on the pool deck on the Pan Am Sports activities Centre, a second that caught with them each and impressed Summer time to get to the Olympics. 

Summer time, left, with sister Brooke and Penny Oleksiak on the 2016 swim trials. (Submitted by McIntosh household)

Now she’s going to the Video games with the 2016 Olympic champion. 

“I might have by no means imagined that. I would not even have imagined she would have picked swimming, not to mention go to the Olympics,” Jill mentioned. 

She described Summer time as her outgoing, foolish baby, but additionally somebody who also can flick a change and get ultra-competitive in a rush. 

“Straight away she may be utterly targeted on the duty at hand. She is excellent at being the foolish, free-spirited little woman after which extraordinarily targeted in a second,” Jill mentioned. 

After the swim trials in June, Oleksiak mentioned Summer time was “all gasoline, no brakes.”

As for Summer time, for her it is easy. 

“All I can do is my finest,” she mentioned. “I am going to practice my hardest and swim my hardest.” 

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