Olympian Clark Smith, who has had recurring Atrial Fibrilation over the past several years, underwent a heart ablation procedure on March 12th. Back in the water now, he told SwimSwam he’ll still skip the Mesa Pro Swim Series stop but plans on returning at the first racing opportunity after Mesa.
Smith’s procedure was a catheter ablation, which is when thin wires are inserted in the neck or groin and then threaded through a vein into the heart. This is part of a process that can stop abnormal heart functions and address larger heart-related issues.
Smith has suffered ongoing heart episodes of late– in December of 2017, an episode lasted nearly a full day, and he had to scratch the rest of the Texas Invite after swimming prelims of the first day. He had another episode during the Atlanta Pro Swim Series, leading him to push the procedure to March after initially planning on having it done in August. After his March 12 procedure, he was back in the water on March 14th and swam easy for a week.
“I’m back 100% now, but I won’t be competing at the Mesa Pro Swim,” said Smith. “I want to get some solid work behind me before my next meet. I don’t know what meet that will be, but I’ll race at the next opportunity after Mesa. I’ll certainly race once or twice before the Santa Clara Pro Swim.”
Smith added that the procedure was minimally-invasive and ‘not stressful.’
A University of Texas alumnus, Smith holds the 1650 free NCAA record (14:22.41) from the 2017 NCAA Championships, a time registered in the fastest and one of the most competitive 1650 races in NCAA Championship history. He also swam prelims of the USA’s gold medal-winning 4×200 free relay in Rio, and picked up a bronze from the heats of Team USA’s 4×200 free relay at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest.
Though he didn’t fly to Minnesota to see the Men’s NCAA Championships, he described the meet as “nearly as stressful watching as a fan.”
“I was sitting in a restaurant with my dad, just refreshing the newsfeed every 10 minutes during the last finals session. I’m proud they pulled it off.”