Growing up, Olympian Kierra Smith competed with soon-to-be dissolved the Liquid Lightning Swim Club. -Image: Jason Ransom/COC

Smith rues folding of swim club

Kelowna’s Kierra Smith, a Pan Am Games champion, grew up with the Liquid Lightning Swim Club.

The following is a letter by Kelowna’s Kierra Smith, an Olympian and Pan American Games gold medalist who has some thoughts about the Liquid Lightning Swim Club shutting down and joining forces with the Kelowna AquaJets:

My swim club folded a week or two ago. Liquid Lightning Swim Club is no more. I read about it on our club’s website.

I have mixed feelings on this as I’ve had many ups and downs with my club but it’s never a good thing when a club, no matter how small, folds up. We had a pretty good 23 year run in West Kelowna serving the needs of competitive swimmers in Westbank, West Kelowna and the west side of Kelowna (geography is complicated here). At the beginning of last year our coach announced that he was coaching both our club and the bigger Kelowna club across the bridge in their 50m pool. This seemed doable but eventually he spent more time there than most anticipated and the faster Lightning swimmers eventually moved to Kelowna and now everyone is expected to trade in their yellow caps for red ones. I’m out of the loop on all the whys and whatfors but I’m sure there was politics aplenty. There always is.

Over the 23 years our club didn’t set the world on fire with our swims but we stood toe to toe with the larger clubs from Kelowna, Kamloops, Penticton and Vernon. We lost more often than we won, but we won sometimes. Liquid Lightning was a place to go before and after school for about a thousand kids on the west side over the years. You know a local swimming community is functioning properly and doing something right when you see a long lineup of cars lined up at 4:45am waiting for a coach to unlock the parking lot gate. Everyone enjoyed being there and many of us became best friends over the years. Even though it may have all ended with a website announcement, Liquid Lightning was a tremendous success story and had real, positive impact on a lot of people and the surrounding community. Everyone involved did something important that they can be proud of.

So we’re now the Kelowna Aquajets and this isn’t the end of the world. I swam with them for five years and enjoyed every minute and have a hundred stories and more memories. I wish everyone the best. Emil believes strongly that the Lightning swimmers need regular training access to a 50 metre facility in order to get qualifying times for Westerns and Canadian Junior Championships. I suppose he could be right but I have a firm bedrock, north star belief that the best swimmers in the world are borne out of the oldest, crappiest 25 metre (or yard) pools. Same as the best prize fighters come out of the dirtiest, smelliest gyms and best soccer players from makeshift soccer pitches in the world’s roughest neighbourhoods.

I’m going to be a good sport about this and really do hope this all works out. Swimmers and swim club parents sometimes have a tendency to be cliquey and I just hope everyone looks out and pays special attention to all these new KAJers, especially the younger ones, as they transition to their new club. It might not seem like it’s tough but joining up with a new club represents a lot of change in a young person’s world. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what I went through in 2010-2012 again after I switched clubs. I guess what I’m trying to say is let’s all be good to each other and take care of one another.

I’ll see everyone in August.

Kierra Smith