May 22nd, 2024

McIntosh looks for more success, Acevedo takes veteran role at Canadian swim trials

By Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press on May 11, 2024.

Summer McIntosh of Canada celebrates after winning the women's 400m medley final at the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, Sunday, July 30, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eugene Hoshiko

TORONTO – Summer McIntosh and Javier Acevedo, representing the young and old hands of the Canadian Swimming squad, met poolside for what turned out to be an awkward greeting on Saturday.

The 26-year-old Acevedo bungled the last part of a new handshake devised by his younger Canadian teammates on the eve of the 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Swimming Trials at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.

“I guess I’m too old, or you’re just too young,” Acevedo told McIntosh, 17.

Moments later, with a hint of nostalgia, Acevedo acknowledged the changes that time has brought to his career. Eight years ago, at the Rio Games, he was the youngest member of the Canadian swimming team.

Now, depending on how the trials evolve from Monday through Sunday, the Toronto native could be the team’s oldest member for the Paris Olympics, a testament to his development.

“It’s mind-blowing,” Acevedo said. “When I think about how ingrained I’ve been in the Canadian system, and now talking to somebody so young like Summer, she not only keeps the rest of us young, but I’m like, wow, I’m 26.

“It was yesterday. I was 18 and the youngest. It’s cool. I’m still here to be here for all of this.”

Acevedo will only offer advice to his younger teammates like McIntosh, who burst onto the swimming scene as a 14-year-old at Toyko Games three years ago, if he’s asked. But he will set an example with his demeanour.

“I’ll always remember the way Ryan Cochrane and Yusi Kisil set the tone for us in Rio eight years ago,” Acevedo said. “I was so naive. But they were there to answer questions, and they always had a smile.

“I will lead by example. I will smile. I will be relaxed. Let’s have some fun.”

Despite sky-high expectations that come with winning back-to-back world titles in both the 200-metre butterfly and the 400 medley, McIntosh is laser focused on her forecasts.

“I think about my own expectations and my coach’s expectations,” McIntosh said. “The outside stuff is just noise.

“I’m happy that people tune in and anticipate what times or what I can achieve at the Games or these trials. But, at the end of the day, I want to focus on this week and what I can accomplish if I execute.”

What does the World record holder in the women’s 400-metre individual medley want to accomplish this week?

“I hope to make my second Olympic team. That’d be amazing,” McIntosh said. “I hope to come up with my race and be as happy as possible with every one of them.”

McIntosh made waves at the 2021 Canadian Olympic swimming trials when she won the 200-metre freestyle race, besting her well-known teammate Penny Oleksiak.

In Toyko, she finished fourth in the 400-metre freestyle, setting a Canadian record, and she was part of a fourth-place finish in the 4X200-metre relay with Oleksiak, Rebecca Smith and Kayla Sanchez.

Swim Canada has dressed up the trial pool with a mini Eiffel Tower perched behind the starter positions.

“That’s why we’re here: to make the Olympic team,” said breaststroke specialist Sophie Angus.

The 25-year-old Angus may not be as well known as Canadian hopefuls Oleksiak, McIntosh, and Kylie Masse, but she has made waves coming into the trials.

The Canadian/American dual citizen was raised in Connecticut by her Canadian father and American mother. She attended Northwestern and figured she was ready to test her data science degree in the working world after graduating four years ago.

But her coach, Ryan Mallette, convinced her to keep competing. Now, she’s on the verge of securing a spot on the Canadian Olympic swim team.

“It’s been a really good two years being up here,” said Angus, whose father Bruce went south on a soccer scholarship to Duke University and later played professionally for the Calgary Kickers and in Switzerland.

“It’s crazy to be here. But I’ve just tried to enjoy the whole process.”

One of the first big finals of the week is on Tuesday, when Angus will clash with Kelsey Wog, Sydney Pickrem, Shona Branton and Alexanne LePage in what should be a super-fast 100-metre breaststroke final.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2024.

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