Smith turns Rio dreams into a reality

The breaststroker qualified in the 100- and 200-meter races for Team Canada.

Minnesota's Kierra Smith swims the 100-yard butterfly against Iowa State on Oct. 12, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota’s Kierra Smith swims the 100-yard butterfly against Iowa State on Oct. 12, 2012, at the University Aquatic Center.

Thomas Jaakola

Kierra Smith’s dream since she was a kid has been to compete in the Olympic Games.
 
 
After winning a gold medal in both of her breaststroke events at the Canadian Olympic trials in Toronto about a week ago, the Gophers swimmer turned that dream into a reality.
 
 
“In the recruiting process, talking to [Minnesota head coach] Kelly [Kremer], I told him I wanted to go to Rio in 2016. And then it was a little bit less of a dream and more of a goal and something that I wanted to do for myself.”
 
 
Smith earned her way to Rio by winning the 100-meter breaststroke in a personal-best 1:06.93 at the trials on April 7 to secure her spot on Team Canada.
 
 
Two days later, she qualified in a second event after winning the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:23.91.
 
 
Her 200-meter time ranks 11th in the world this year as of Monday, and her 100-meter time is 13th.
 
 
“The 100 [breaststroke] was a lifetime best by almost a second, and that puts her in contention to be in the Canadian 400[-meter] medley relay, so that was a highlight for sure,” Kremer said. “I really think, and I have all along, that Kierra is the best breaststroker in Canada.”
 
 
Despite swimming well enough to qualify for the Olympics, Smith said she saw a lot of room for improvement in her 200-meter time.
 
 
“My 200 was not as good as I wanted,” Smith said. “It was a little more ‘splashy’ than I needed. I’m going to work on my technique a little bit with both of my coaches … who both know how to help me fix that, so I’m lucky that I have them here to help me.”
 
 
Smith qualified for the Olympics after taking the year off of college swimming and classes to train.
 
 
“You have so much more free time to recover and focus on practices, just a lot less stress during the day,” Smith said. “I think that helped me so much this year, being able to cope with the stress of swimming alone. And being in Minnesota, I had all the resources that I needed.”
 
 
Smith still trained part of the time in the Aquatic Center on campus and stayed in touch with Kremer. The Gophers head coach told her before the trials to go out, have fun and let the results take care of themselves.
 
 
The 2016 Olympics 100-meter breaststroke heats and semifinals will take place on Aug. 7, and the finals will be on Aug. 8.
 
 
The 200-meter breaststroke heats and semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 10, with the finals on Aug. 11.
 
 
“The Canadian women’s team is just so strong,” Kremer said. “They just have an incredible team right now. I think the 400 medley relay team can medal, and I think Kierra in the 200 breast can medal; I’ve said that all along, I think she’s a medal contender, and I can’t wait to see what happens in a few months.”