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Kelowna swimmer competing for gold in 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games

FILE PHOTO - Kierra Smith
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Kierra Smith
July 24, 2021 - 1:00 PM

Kierra Smith has trained years for this moment.

Born and raised in Kelowna, the swimmer found out this week she qualified in the Olympic trials and will be heading to Japan for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics Games this summer.

“It took a bit to sink in… I just thought of how many hurdles there were along the way. It was a tough year and I leaned on my family and friends and coaches so much this year, more than I ever have. I can’t believe it worked out,” she said.

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

The 27-year-old has been training at Parkinson Recreation Centre, the pool she learned to swim in and will compete in Tokyo in the 100-metre breaststroke. Swim events start July 24 and run until Aug. 1.

“I felt like it was such a nice community to be back there and be supported by that community,” she said.

Just prior to the pandemic, Smith was 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 COIVD-19 outbreak in the U.S., her coach recommended that she should go home. In December 2020, she moved back to Kelowna after living in Minneapolis for the last 10 years.

She had to adjust to training with a new swim team and at a rec centre that isn’t built for Olympic-style training.

“It’s not the most ideal place but it was perfect for what I was trying to do,” she said.

The Olympics was also a moving target, with delays longer than a year for the event due to the pandemic.

“Just watching the media right? (Thinking) are the games going to happen? Is this work worth it? And that’s when I needed my family’s support the most and I was lucky living with my family at home,” she said.

She flies to Tokyo July 16.

“Now I’m just letting myself get really excited for it,” she said, adding she’s looking forward to being back in that competitive environment, despite pandemic protocols. She feels more confident in her abilities than she did in 2016.

Her dad Andy Smith, said Kierra is a different breed and he and her mom are very proud of her.

They aren’t able to travel with her due to the pandemic but Andy said they will watch her race on TV.

- This story was originally published June 27, 2021.

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