Canadian teenager Summer McIntosh has ended American swim queen Katie Ledecky’s insane 13-year streak in 800m freestyle finals.
Ledecky is the undoubted queen of middle and long distance swimming, a 16-time world champion and seven-time Olympic gold medallist, having dominated in the 400m, 800m and 1500m events for more than a decade. She was also a 200m champion earlier in her career.
But after Aussie Ariarne Titmus stole Ledecky’s 400m crown at the 2021 Toyko Olympics, it appeared it was just a matter of time before the American’s incredible dominance was challenged in the other events.
And finally it’s happened with 17-year-old wunderkind McIntosh pulling off an incredible swim to end Ledecky’s reign.
While not the biggest pressure cooker event at the 2024 Southern Zone South Sectional Championships, McIntosh became the second fastest female 800m swimmer of all-time, knocking nearly nine seconds off her personal best to break Titmus’ Commonwealth and Brittany MacLean’s Canadian records.
The time would have won gold at the Toyko Olympics, which was won by Ledecky in 8:15.67.
McLean, who set her record a decade earlier, was watching the race and recorded her reaction to the performance and was excited for the result.
MacLean took to X to pay tribute to both women.
“SO PROUD to watch this record fall (BY NINE SECONDS) – congrats to
@summermcintoshh the fastest 800 freestyler in the world this year. Starting the petition to add it to her Olympic program this summer, who’s with me?!” MacLean wrote.
As for Ledecky, MacLean added: “I have an unbelievable amount of respect and admiration for the (GOAT) Katie Ledecky. 13 years of completely resetting the record books, I think we sometimes take for granted truly how DOMINANT she has been.
“Her success has just become routine to witness, but I think sometimes it’s important to stop and reflect on how much she achieved. She could easily show up to smaller, in-season meets and have some fun with different events, but she ALWAYS steps up to a challenge.
“She never, ever takes the easy way out & I’m constantly in awe of how tough she is. Most of all, I’m just grateful to have been able to witness this sport break new barriers thanks to her & those who continue to chase her. Thank you @katieledecky — no one does it quite like you!”
Incredibly, McIntosh’s time of 8:11.39 is still just over six and a half seconds off Ledecky’s world record time of 8:04.79 set at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Ledecky also holds the 16 fastest times in history, although before the race, she held the 29 fastest times in history.
The last time Ledecky lost an 800m freestyle final was at the 2010 Potomac Valley Championships in Maryland, where she finished third — and was 13.
Ledecky had finished second in a heat at the 2019 World Championship but won gold in the final.
However, the performance may have McIntosh needing to make a decision about which event she wants to tackle at the Olympics as both the 800m free and 200 IM, where McIntosh is the world’s best this year as well, are in the same session.
McIntosh is also the world record holder in the 400m IM and has the second fastest time in history in the 400m free behind Titmus.