The McIntosh sisters do well to keep in touch, despite training in different countries and thriving as teenage stars in different sports.
Brooke McIntosh will be among the pairs skaters vying for a medal this weekend at the Canadian figure skating championships. She’s the 18-year-old sister of Summer McIntosh, the now 16-year-old world-champion swimmer who burst into the spotlight at 14 when she raced her way onto Team Canada for the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Both sisters from Toronto are on a roll right now in their respective sports.
The figure skater trains in Brantford, Ont., with her 21-year-old partner Benjamin Mimar. The pair are enjoying an impressive debut season in senior international competition, fresh off their first ISU Grand Prix medal at the NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan.
Her sister trains mostly in Sarasota, Fla., and was Canada’s female swimmer of the year after winning four medals at the FINA world swimming championships in Budapest, Hungary, then six more at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. She added two more at the short-course FINA swimming World Cup in Toronto, including a standout 400-metre freestyle win over American legend Katie Ledecky.
Their mom and dad take turns being in Florida or Toronto, one with each daughter at a time, and gathering at home every few months. They keep well connected by phone.
“We have busy schedules, so we’re constantly texting and Snapchatting and other social-media stuff,” said the figure skater, backstage at Tribute Centre in Oshawa, Ont., this week. “You do the best you can, and we do a pretty good job.”
As little girls, both sisters swam and figure skated before they each chose to specialize. Their mother, Jill, swam in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics as a 17-year-old.
The sisters understand one another and the competitive drive it takes to succeed as youngsters at the highest level of their sports – against adults – while still juggling high school, too. Summer is in Grade 11 and Brooke is in Grade 12.
“We’re both very hard workers,” the older sister said. ”Summer’s definitely a little more free-spirited than I am. I’m very much a rule follower.”
They seldom get to see one other in their different training environments. Yet during the lockdown months, the family spent time at their cottage in Ontario’s Muskoka region, and the girls made the most of the outdoors to get some exercise.
“Summer could swim in the lake, which is really nice, so I would be on at the paddle board beside her,” Brooke McIntosh said. “That was fun.”
With no family allowed at the Tokyo Olympics, the McIntosh family watched her swim via TV, in the basement.
Asked if they, too, strive to compete in an Olympic Games some day, McIntosh and her 21-year-old skating partner Mimar both smiled warmly.
“That’s for sure,” Mimar said. “That could be a cool experience for sure. Yes. That’s something that’s in our mind.”
The young skating pair are among a crop of promising teams in a Canadian pairs field that opened up this season following the retirement of 2022 Beijing Olympic duos Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, and Vanessa James and Eric Radford. This weekend, they will contend with the favourite team for the national title, Grand Prix de France gold medalists Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps, who are gunning for their first national title.
Mimar and McIntosh are in their third season together after persevering through some challenges early in their partnership. Mimar, of Laval, Que., spoke almost no English when they first connected, and McIntosh was very shy. Plus their training was largely interrupted by pandemic lockdowns.
Mimar moved to the Toronto area to train with her, and he worked hard on his English.
“Our communication is getting better. Brooke is older now so she’s less shy,” Mimar said. “Sometimes it feels like she’s the older one and she needs to bring me back on track.”
They won the 2022 Canadian junior title, scoring 155.95 points to better their previous mark of 152.68 set at the Skate Canada Challenge. They also earned a bronze medal at the junior world championships and a gold at the Bavarian Open.
After stepping up to the senior level, they took bronze at the Finlandia Trophy in Espoo, Finland, then fourth at Skate Canada International in Mississauga – both in October. Then in November came their bronze in Japan.
When not training, the partners also coach children. For McIntosh, it brings out her big-sister qualities.
“It’s about the passion, and seeing the next generation of young skaters that are at the rink,” McIntosh said. “It’s a lot of fun to be able to be there and support them.”