15-Year-Old Regan Smith Brings Return to U.S.’s Young Swimmer Legacy


The 2016 Rio Olympics were the first Olympics in 116 years that the United States’s Olympic swimming roster didn’t have any swimmers under the age of 18. It also was the first time since 1992 that the American Olympic swim team lacked a 14 or 15-year-old. (14-year-old Amanda Beard famously held a teddy bear on the medal stand in 1996, Michael Phelps was 15 in 2000, Katie Hoff was 15 in 2004, Elizabeth Beisel was 15 in 2008, and Katie Ledecky was 15 in 2012.)

Up until very recently, the American young swimmer tradition has continued in non-Olympic years as well. A 14-year-old Beisel made the Melbourne World Championships squad in 2007, 15-year-old Elizabeth Pelton swam at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, 16-year-old Missy Franklin took on the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, and 15-year-old Becca Mann made the open water team for 2013 Worlds in Barcelona.

Today, 15-year-old Regan Smith claimed a spot on the Budapest Worlds squad by finishing second in the 200 back with 2:08.55. After a drought of very young Worlds-quality American swimmers, Smith’s performance could represent a return to the United States’s young-international-level-swimmer tradition.

Other countries, especially those in Asia (Japan and Rikako Ikee comes to mind), have not seen the same dearth of very young swimmers that the U.S. has in the past couple of years. It’s still too far-out to start evaluating potential for future 15-year-olds for Tokyo 2020, but Smith shows that the United States is still a place where (very) young talent can train and end up competing at the highest level.

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Yes!!! So awesome that she made it! I knew she was completely capable of making the team in both backstrokes and it’s awesome that she finally made her big break since she’s been so good for so long.


With your “so good for so long” you are spoiling the very mood of this article that welcomes very young stars 🙂


I’m meant that ive been watching her times from when she was around 12 are realized how good she was and how it’s so nice to see her make it to the world stage!

Regan\'s Fan

Regan is coached by Riptide’s Mike Parratto, who was Jenny Thompson’s coach.

Swimming Facts

Not to forget that Regan built all her 14-u swimming career at the Storm Club in Minnesota. I think she’s only been at Riptide for 2 years.


(insert shameful plug above) . Smith moved to Riptide two months after turning 13. The reason she is where she is today is A) talent. B) hard work and C) Mike Parratto & Riptide. Don’t kid yourself.

Swimming Facts

So are you saying she was nobody before turning 13? Interesting how you think. She has always been an amazing swimmer with accolades across all age groups. To say that the coach is the sole catalizer in her success is just plain blind. Good luck, “Dan”!


Her coach is very cautious with prognosis on Regan Smith’s future achievements. I respect him for that and it gives me a hope that this talent is in right hands that will make of her something very special.

About Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht grew up in Kansas and spent most of her childhood trying to convince coaches to let her swim backstroke in freestyle sets. She took her passion to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and swam at NAIA Nationals all four years. After graduating in 2015, she moved to …

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