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

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

The 14-year-old was beaming behind her masks as she tried to catch her breath. 

“You already know, it is simply loopy. I do not even know what to say. I am simply speechless,” she stated, huffing and puffing. “It has been such a loopy 12 months for everybody. I am simply actually blissful.”

It was Father’s Day on the Canadian Olympic swimming trials and her dad, Greg, was introduced up on the massive display screen contained in the venue for a post-race interview. Summer season’s eyes lit up when she noticed him. She waved. 

“That is my dad,” she stated, smiling. 

Greg, virtually misplaced for phrases for a minute, composed himself. 

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“She works so exhausting. It is so superb to see her get rewarded for the exhausting work she places in. She deserves this and Summer season, I am so, so blissful for you,” he stated.

WATCH | McIntosh edges Oleksiak at Olympic trials:

14-year-old Summer season 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 Greg had been away from bed in weeks. 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,” stated Jill McIntosh, Greg’s spouse and Summer season’s mom. “That was his first time getting within the bathe and having a shirt on.”

Jill has been the glue protecting the household collectively for the previous seven months. When Greg was identified with most cancers in January, the household determined they needed to break up as much as reduce the COVID-19 threat.

Greg moved into a spot close to the Princess Margaret Most cancers Centre in downtown Toronto. Jill and Summer season rented a condominium in Scarborough, Ont., close to the pool whereas Greg and Jill’s different daughter Brooke, who’s a aggressive pairs determine skater and competed on the 2020 Youth Olympics, stayed on the household dwelling in Etobicoke, Ont. 

“When Brooke was skating I’d go to the home and fill the fridge up. I could not keep up a correspondence together with her. After which with Greg I might triple-mask and assist him once I may,” Jill stated. “You simply sort of go into mama bear mode. You simply need to get by means of. I needed to take at some point at a time. Like a swimmer. And never be too scared concerning the future.”

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

Jill would know. She competed on the 1984 Olympics within the pool for Canada and is aware of what it takes to be an elite swimmer. 

So she was doing the whole lot in her energy to assist hold Summer season targeted and pushing towards her aim of qualifying for Tokyo. However the younger swimmer was additionally dealing with extra adversity months earlier when her longtime coach, Kevin Thorburn, died in April 2020.

Everybody has had their battles throughout this pandemic. However she misplaced her coach by means of all of this out of the blue. After which her dad. The trials on, trials off. She rolls with the punches fairly nicely.– Jill McIntosh on daughter Summer season

It was a stunning loss for the swimming group in Canada and for Summer season. 

“Everybody has had their battles throughout this pandemic. However she misplaced her coach by means of all of this out of the blue. It was devastating for her and everybody,” Jill stated. “After which utterly turning her coaching the wrong way up and shifting to the centre. It was a bit scary for her. It was all new. After which her dad. The trials on, trials off. She rolls with the punches fairly nicely. I’m so pleased with her.”

Summer season is as resilient a 14-year-old as you may ever meet. Now she finds herself at her first Olympics, in a pandemic, with out her household. 

Greg is on the highway to restoration. Summer season was in a position to see him earlier than she left for Tokyo. Then she was off to a staging camp in Vancouver for greater than per week earlier than chickening out to the Video games. Jill additionally flew to Vancouver for a number of days to spend time together with her daughter earlier than the largest second of her life so far.

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

“My mother is simply so supportive. She drives me and does the whole lot she will be able to to assist me really feel prepared,” Summer season stated. “She’s simply being a traditional mother. Consoling if I’ve a nasty race. She’s simply superb.”

Jill has a deep understanding of what makes athletes nice. She is aware of what labored for her and is attempting to create an surroundings now for her daughter to thrive in — that additionally consists of being intentional about giving her house. 

WATCH | McIntosh able to grow to be youngest Canadian athlete in Tokyo:

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

“As a lot as you would possibly need to ask about this and what about that, I additionally acknowledge one of the crucial essential success components of any athlete is the coach-athlete relationship. For those who begin to muck with that it is not good,” Jill stated. “It is not an important path for a dad or mum to repeatedly interject. I attempt to be so supportive of that.

“I do truly suppose I can add essentially the most worth to each ladies simply to attempt to put issues in perspective.”

Summer season and her sister are greatest mates. They began swimming collectively at a really younger age. Jill says Brooke was truly in all probability the higher swimmer at first. Summer season additionally skated. 

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

Summer season McIntosh receives her medal after profitable the ladies’s 800m freestyle on the Canadian swimming trials in June. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

‘Summer season simply favored to race’

“I believe Summer season favored the objectivity of swimming. She favored understanding her time. Determine skating you are judged. I believe she a lot most popular the non-judged sport. Brooke gravitated to that. Summer season simply favored to race and know precisely the place she stood,” Jill stated. “I am sort of glad they each picked totally different sports activities. I do not know what would have occurred.

“I believe it is a a lot simpler path. 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 who’ve achieved and are attaining athletic success. 

“It is unbelievable. I am simply so pleased with each my children. And Jill is the one who retains the whole lot collectively. It is an absolute thrill to observe this all,” he stated.

Simply 5 quick years in the past, Brooke and Summer season 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 season to get to the Olympics. 

Summer season McIntosh, left, with sister Brooke and Penny Oleksiak on the 2016 swim trials. (Courtesy McIntosh household)

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

“I’d 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 stated. 

She describes Summer season as her outgoing, foolish little one, but additionally somebody who may also flick a swap and get ultra-competitive in a rush. 

“Straight away she might be utterly targeted on the duty at hand. She is superb at being the foolish, free-spirited little lady after which extraordinarily targeted in a second,”Jill stated. 

Oleksiak stated she’s “all gasoline, no brakes.”

The pandemic has been difficult for even essentially the most veteran athletes, by no means thoughts what Summer season needed to endure on a private degree. However the 14-year-old is protecting her massive second in perspective.

“All I can do is my greatest. I am going to prepare my hardest and swim my hardest,” she stated. 

“I am nonetheless processing the whole lot. It would not really feel actual but. Nevertheless it’s been nice to see my exhausting work come to life and see that tough work all the time pays off.”

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Written by bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.


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