Gophers swimmer Kierra Smith qualifies for Rio

Ben Gotz

By Mike Hendrickson

Gophers swimmer Kierra Smith is headed to the 2016 Olympics.

Smith, who did not swim with Minnesota this year to train, will represent Team Canada after qualifying in the 100-meter breaststroke.

She swam a time of 1:06.93 in the event at Canada’s Olympic Trials on Thursday in Toronto, a time that would have placed her fourth in the 2012 Olympics.

Smith’s qualifying time is 14th in the world rankings for the 100 breaststroke as of Friday morning.

She told the Minnesota Daily in November the extra time she was devoting to swimming was helpful, and on Thursday it paid off as she punched her ticket to Rio.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of extra time to just focus on swimming, and I feel really relaxed going into practices, and I still feel really connected to the team, so I’ve really had a great year so far,” Smith said in November.

Smith is a four-time individual Big Ten Champion and a three-time All-American, and will have one year of college eligibility left after competing this summer.

“I think the biggest thing with [Smith] is her desire. She really wants to be the best, and she wants to be with the best, and I think her desire to get there is what makes her so good,” Gophers swimming and diving head coach Kelly Kremer said in November. “She’s willing to do whatever it takes and commit to the highest level, and it shows in all aspects of her athletic performance.”