It’s an emotional roller coaster that Kierra Smith would prefer not to have to ride again.
From winning an NCAA swimming title last month to very nearly missing out on Canada’s national swim team this week, it’s been a bumpy journey for the 21-year-old Kelowna athlete.
In the end, Smith can breathe easier after being named to the Canadian squad for both the Pan Am Championships and the FINA world championships later this year.
At the Canadian trials last week in Toronto, Smith was the favourite to win the 200 metre breaststroke and didn’t disappoint by touching first the prelims in convincing fashion.
But Smith was then disqualified after officials ruled her elbows exited the water on her stroke recovery, which technically provides an unfair advantage.
After an appeal from her coach, Emil Dimitrov, the decision was overturned and Smith was reinstated to swim that night in the final.
Once again Smith finished first—with the fourth fastest time in the world—but for the second time in one day she was disqualified on the same ruling.
This time the appeal was denied.
“I’ve never been called on anything before, so it was frustrating,” said Smith who won the 200-yard breaststroke at the NCAA finals last month in North Carolina. “I definitely wasn’t doing it to try and win…it was just my stroke and it was upsetting to be disqualified. If I did do it, it wasn’t my intention. My coach (Emil) and I are going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
But Liquid Lightning Swim Club member would get a reprieve. As the meet came to a close and Canadian officials named the final roster, Smith ultimately made the team as a discretionary choice—a swimmer who was simply too talented to leave at home.
“It was just a roller coaster, a rough meet all the way around, but I’m happy with the way it ended and the selection committee put me on the team,” said Smith, who finished the meet with a strong second-place effort Thursday in the 100 breaststroke. “I felt like I handled myself well and it turned out well.”
Smith will compete in the 100 and 200 metre breastroke events at the Pan Am Championships in Toronto in July and at the FINA World Championships the following month in Russia.