Canadian Olympian and Pan Ams gold medalist Kierra Smith is switching up her training base, returning to the University of Minnesota and coach Kelly Kremer only about two months out from Canada’s Olympic Trials.
Smith was a collegiate standout for the University of Minnesota, winning the NCAA 200 breaststroke title in 2015. She took an Olympic redshirt season from NCAA competition in 2016, spending the fall at Minnesota with Kremer’s breaststroke group, then training in Canada from January through Canadian Olympic Trials in April.
This time around, that combo is flipped. Smith had been training at the High Performance Center in Ontario. But the breaststroker has returned to Minnesota for the final two-month push to Canada’s Olympic Trials, with the 2020 Olympics several months further out. Smith made the move to Minnesota in late January, just after the Knoxville Pro Swim Series.
“There’s never a perfect time to make a move,” Smith told SwimSwam. “My reasons for moving back were more personal than anything. I’m engaged and my fiancée lives in Minneapolis.
“I think in the two years in Scarborough I made a lot of friends, connected with a lot of teams and put on clinics in southern Ontario helping out younger swimmers, but once Saturday morning practice ended it was a long time sitting around an empty apartment until Monday practice. I was just lonely and decided to do something about it.”
“Ben and I are great,” Smith said of her time in Ontario with coach Ben Titley. “I’ve been working with him on National teams since 2014 and I am excited to work with him going forward. Training with him full time was a valuable experience and I am beyond thankful for the time, resources and energy that he and the high performance centre staff has put into me. Ben and I came to this decision together that it is best for me to be in Minneapolis for these next 8 weeks leading to trials.”
Smith said her history at Minnesota is making the transition much smoother.
“We didn’t skip a beat,” she said. “Kelly and I have experienced both the highs and lows in this sport and we’ve worked together for so long. Kelly and I have always been on the same page that success at the end of the year depends on the work you put in and the importance of how you treat your body and mind the 20 hours a day you’re not at the pool.
“Minnesota has always been really good to me, it’s a great feeling to be back.”
Smith joins a loaded training group of elite breaststrokers, something Minnesota has been known for. The Golden Gophers currently have All-American Conner McHugh in the mix as a pro, along with current college All-Americans Max McHugh and Lindsey Kozelsky.
Canadian Olympic Trials begin on March 30 in Toronto.