Blog Time! Australia, Throwback PanPacs, Taylor Ruck’s feet and Kayla Sanchez’s playlist. Evan a bonus Santo Condorelli quote. It’s all here! Curl up with with someone and read it together.

Santo Condorelli said something wise with a microphone in front of him at this year’s Men’s NCAA championships in Minnesota. After Santo was asked about how he felt competing as a senior in his last college swim meet he paused for a moment before saying someday he won’t remember the competitions or the times but will always appreciate the friendships and relationships he made at USC. Perhaps I’m a bit emotional now that I have more swim meets behind me than in front of me but that’s exactly how I felt leaving Australia last week after my 2nd Commonwealth Games. It’s been a real privilege and joy to be surrounded by such goal oriented, positive, upbeat athletes, coaches and staff on team Canada over the past four years and more than anything I value the friendships I’ve made.

Commonwealth Games Gold Coast Australia

The games just ended in the Gold Coast, Australia. I’m not 100% sure why everyone doesn’t live in Queensland but this was my second time competing here and both visits were over the top fun. Australians have high swimming IQs and swimming in front of 10,000 loud, swimming obsessed fans of our sport in all sorts of weather made it special. This part of the world seems custom made for someone like me and a small part of me was a little disappointed I couldn’t figure out how to stay here for a year, then another year, then see how it goes.

My first visit here four years ago was my first year on the national team and I was a raw rookie feeling maybe a little intimidated. PanPacs 2014 featured Phelps, Ledecky, Franklin, Hardy, Clary, Adrian and Lochte. The Aussie team included McEvoy, Magnusson, Seebohm and the Campbell sisters. Like this year, I swam both the 100m and 200m breaststroke events and did reasonably well. Missed the podium both times four years ago but came home with a bronze in the medley relay.

Still in the game…

Commonwealth Ganes 2018

This year I finished 4th in the 200m breaststroke with a 2:23 something, 2nd in the 100m with a 1:07 something and a 1:06 something on the relay. Ya, that’s pretty normal for me. Not great, not bad, still in the game, not fading away but not striking fear into anyone. As the timeless cliché goes….I’m happy with the results but there’s work to do. Have to improve the 100 time quickly or I’m going to get bumped from that relay soon enough. It’s no secret that the BR is the weak and flabby underbelly of our relay with the world going 1:04 so, ya, I’ll get to work on it. Perhaps lifting heavier weights? More intense workouts? Med balls? Nutrition? Therapy Puppies? Anyone know a shortcut?
The camp that preceded the games went really well. I thought I was going to throw down a 2:21/1:05 but won’t over analyze things too much. I’ll appreciate my silver medals one day. I’m in the middle of a five day break then back in the pool Monday with the Gophers. The calendar works well for me this year with Canadian Trials falling at almost the same time as USA Trials in July. I’ll be able to swim the same workouts since everyone will all be on identical cycles.

This year I looked around and noticed I was one of the older swimmers on our team. When did this happen? Fearless teenagers have somehow elbowed their way in and aren’t satisfied with doing “reasonably well”. Now, four years later, I know I’m not the only one who casually makes a mental note of the existing world record just prior to some Canadian swims. In real life the Canadian teenagers on the team are just like regular teenagers everywhere else. They’re always on their phones, they obsess over Instagram, they listen to rap music too loud, they talk about boys and worry about school. Once they get in the water though they turn into cold blooded assassins afraid of no one.

England and Switzerland

In December I went with Kayla, Rebecca and Taylor to England and Switzerland to compete and we arrived about a week early to acclimatize and train. I’ve seen speed up close before and didn’t think I’d be too phased by it. I’ve watched Oleksiak, Sjostrom, Manual, Campbell and the other Campbell up close from poolside and you appreciate their athleticism much more in person compared to watching on a screen or reading it on meetmobile. . Multiply that feeling by 100 after pushing off a wall a few seconds behind Ruck, Sanchez and Rebecca during a freestyle set and trying to keep up. I’m glad few people saw. It was like accidentally going into the wrong classroom and listening to a 4th year advanced Physics lecture when you were supposed to be in first year remedial math. At one point I just stopped and started to laugh. Future looks bright though. Those three girls are good to hang around with if you’re into studying speed. I’m becoming more convinced there isn’t a secret ingredient they’re not telling me about and it’s just intense discipline every single day maintaining good habits that were established a long time ago before I arrived on the scene. When people my age hang out with teenagers there’s always often sometimes this awkward moment where they eventually ask you to buy them vodka. Kept waiting but it never happened. They’re just regular people doing exceptional things even when no one is watching.

I’m currently on an extra long swimming hiatus staying out of the water. An extended break out of the pool hoping to recharge the batteries. Five whole days. I had no difficulty with jet lag flying to Australia but I’ve been taking six hour naps during the day before a long night’s sleep. This normal? Back in the water tomorrow and hopefully that will let my body know it’s time to get back to work.

Next up for me…….I’ll be doing Fitter and Faster clinics in Dayton, Ohio and Fargo, North Dakota this month teaching American kids the importance of keeping their elbows in the water otherwise bad things will happen. Then it’s the Kelowna Aquajet Long Course meet May 18-20th. Contact me if you’re looking for a mid May meet and need a place to stay in Kelowna. My mom makes world class pancakes and sometimes my dad’s jokes are funny. Nothing finalized after that. Canadian Trials in Edmonton in July and either Tokyo or Montreal after that.

Kierra Smith
Minneapolis, MN