Kierra Smith ramping up for Rio

Kelowna swimmer performs well in Europe in lead-up to this summer's Olympic Games in Brazil

Kierra Smith

If her recent performances in Monaco are a sign things to come, then Kierra Smith looks to be on the right track heading into the 2016 Olympic Games.

In a field of international competitors, mostly from Europe and Asia, the 22-year-old swimmer from Kelowna won both the 100- and 200-metre breaststroke events last weekend at the Mare Nostrum Tour meet in Monte Carlo.

Smith showed the way in the 100 in a time of 1:08.94, and in the 200 in 2:26.54.

“My swims in Monte Carlo were great for right now,” said Smith. “It’s good to have racing experiences like that leading up to the games.

“It gave me a lot of confidence that I’m in the right place.”

Smith’s specialty is the 200 metres, an event she won at the Pan American Games in Toronto last summer in her breakout season of 2015.

This spring at the Canadian trials in Toronto, she qualified to compete in both the 100 and 200 races in Rio.

Since then, Smith’s training has been split between Minneapolis, Kelowna and, most recently, Europe.

With her first ever Olympics drawing ever closer, the Immaculata grad said her preparation is going as well can be as expected, both mentally and physically.

“I’m feeling great two months out,” said Smith, a longtime member of the Liquid Lighting Swim Club. “I am confident in my training and racing and really enjoying the process.

“There is a lot of excitement right now and I’m trying to take it all in.”

Smith’s coach in Kelowna, Emil Dimitrov, is encouraged by her progress this spring and said Smith’s times and performances in Monaco “were fantastic” keeping her on the right course towards the Olympics.

As for the current political and social concerns awaiting all the athletes in Rio, Dmitrov said it has had no bearing on the way Smith has been preparing for the most important competition of her athletic life.

“It’s not really a factor,” Dmitrov said. “We keep away from the whole talk of what’s happening there. Those are things that can’t be controlled, so we just focus on the process, focus on what Kierra needs to do be prepared the best she can.”

The final phase of Smith’s preparation will be split between Kelowna, Minneapolis and Toronto, the last meeting place for Canada’s Olympic swimmers before heading to Rio in late July.

The 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil are set for Aug. 5 to 21.