'It doesn’t seem like reality': Kelowna swimmer's Olympic dream on hold | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'It doesn’t seem like reality': Kelowna swimmer's Olympic dream on hold

Kierra Smith was hoping to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Now her dreams are on hold.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Kierra Smith
March 24, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Kierra Smith has been training for years for a chance to earn an Olympic medal but her dreams are on hold since Canada has pulled its athletes from the 2020 Olympics.

Born and raised in Kelowna, Smith, 26, was set to compete in the Olympics trials, March 31 to April 5 in Toronto but the event has been postponed due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

The top swimmers from the trials earn a place on Team Canada and get to compete in the Summer Olympics, she said.

On Sunday, March 22, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it wouldn’t be sending athletes to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic games, scheduled to begin July 24.

“It doesn’t seem like reality… Obviously it’s so disappointing to get that email and hear that news that they won’t send us after years of work, but it’s a relief to focus now on federal guidelines to stay home and stay safe,” Smith said.

The IOC announced a first-of-its-kind postponement of the Summer Olympics today, March 24, bowing to the realities of a coronavirus pandemic that is shutting down daily life around the globe and making planning for a massive worldwide gathering in July a virtual impossibility. The International Olympic Committee said the Tokyo Games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

Smith has been training at the University of Minnesota. She graduated from the university in 2017 with a psychology and communications degree. In 2016, she competed at the Rio Olympics, finishing seventh in the 200-metre breaststroke and 17th in the 100-metre breaststroke.

With the outbreak in the U.S., her coach recommended that she should go home.

“I didn’t want to hear it, I wanted to stay there and train but it was really smart of him to think of me… now the border’s shut so I’m happy to be here with family,” Smith said.

Upon her return to Kelowna, she started training at the H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre before it closed and then the YMCA pool but that also shut down so she started travelling to West Kelowna to the Johnson Bentley Memorial Aquatic Centre. Since that is now closed, she swims for two hours a day in a 12-metre long private pool.

As a young girl, she was very competitive and loved the idea of competing in the Olympics. With bad knees, she found her outlet through swimming.

“I totally loved it. I set my own goals and it was something that was my own and I got to hang out with friends at the swimming pool. I loved everything about it. Really since then, I think the Olympics became a realistic dream for me in 2012 when I came fourth in the Olympic trials,” she said. “I just kept on trying to get a little bit better every day."

Smith is swimming, biking, eating healthy and biding her time.

“If the Olympics are postponed a year, it seems like a big deal but it’s not,” she said. “I’ll probably reset right now and figure out the best way to stay healthy.

“Maybe the lake will open soon,” she said.

— With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

— This story was updated at 9:16 a.m. Tuesday, 24, 2020, to say the IOC had officially postponed the 2020 Summer Games.

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