Kieran Smith is looking to expand his horizons–beginning with going pro.
After winning his first Olympic medal with a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in the 400 free, Smith has wrapped up his time with the Florida Gators. Now, Smith trains with Anthony Nesty’s pro group in Gainesville.
“It’s Time to Do What I Always Dreamed Of”
In August 2022, Smith announced he was forgoing his final year of NCAA eligibility to swim with coach Nesty’s professional group.
“I’m very grateful to have competed for Florida, collegiately, for four years, scored some points, swam some big relays,” Smith said. “But it’s time to do what I always dreamed of when I was a kid, in high school even: swimming for a living. It’s really cool to see that.”
Smith lives about a mile-and-a-half from campus, and swimming with the Florida coach has allowed him to make a “super easy” transition to professional swimming. Smith noted that Nesty has a stellar professional team for freestylers, compared to Bob Bowman’s professional team, which might be better for IMers (though Smith noted the only way to settle who’s best of the two teams is to have a dual meet).
When asked about turning pro, despite the ability to earn money through name, image, and likeness (NIL) deals, Smith cited the freedom that comes with a professional status. For example, Smith said he would have full control of his schedule and how he wants to frame his training.
“I want to focus on the pro schedule,” Smith said. “In college, everything is built around that one meet in March, NCAAs. At this point in my career, I want to focus on long course, and I want to swim at international meets. I intend to race at the World Cups. Nothing’s confirmed yet, but that’s the plan.”
He also hopes to swim at the Short Course World Championships in Australia if selected, because he was born in Sydney. In addition, Smith has the ability to swim 5-6 events at pro meets, allowing him a much wider slate of potential events than college. Smith said that his IMs are still top events, and he looks forward to swimming those, as well as the 200 back, at pro meets.
Smith’s Relay Game
Smith anchored Team USA’s World Championship 4×200 free relay in 2022, which won gold. He added that the team was “planning on doing something big” after World Championship trials, after the team posted three 1:45s and a 1:46 low.
At Worlds, Smith said he was nervous to anchor the race, especially since this was his first time anchoring the 800 free relay and he had to watch everyone else swim before he could take the team home. He later proved he had no reason to be nervous; he dropped a 1:44.3 split.
“The first 100 was ethereal, it’s crazy how little I felt. I didn’t feel anything in my hands, I was numb. I think I can attribute a really big relay performance to good, old-fashioned adrenaline,” Smith said. “It was my best performance of the season, and it’s so nice to cap off the World Champs with a gold medal and a really good split.”
Now, Smith wants to swim a top-4 100m free time, to get on the 4×100 Olympic relay at the 2024 Olympics. At the U.S. International Team Trials, he shaved his time down to 48.5, down from his previous personal best of 49.1 in 2019. Smith speculates that by 2024, a top-4 100 time will likely have to be 47, since the field keeps getting faster as the years continue.
Smith’s transition to freestyle was relatively recent. Freshman year at UF, he swam the IM events and 200 back at U.S. Nationals. In his sophomore year, he decided to test the 500 free at SECs to determine if he should stick to his original slate at NCAAs.
His free time ended up being at 4:06, down from a 4:16.
“It was really strange because the swim never hurt,” Smith said. “I was in such fantastic shape, I absolutely nailed my taper for that meet, the swim was effortless. I remember at the 350, I said ‘let’s kick it up a notch,’ and I went from 10 to 11 strokes like it was nothing. Changes of gears were so natural, my flipturns and my push-offs were so crisp, I touched the wall, and I wasn’t expecting 4:06…that was mind-blowing for me.”
While Smith plans to swim in 2024, he’s not sure yet if he’ll swim at the home Olympics in 2028. He did say he’ll be there–either competing or watching.
Currently, Smith is easing himself back into training after having been out of the water. He’s completed a couple of low-key ocean swims, returned to the weight room, and got a tattoo of gator scales during his break before his return to the pool next week.
While Smith’s key focus now is his budding professional career, he also noted that he studied physiology and kinesiology, and hopes one day to do some work in athletic training like the legendary Keenan Robinson.
“I’m really excited to get back in the water, to get back into the swing of things,” Smith said. “I’m in such a different spot than I was last year after the Games. I got back in on time but I was dreading having to go train every day, but this year I’m really focused, I’m really excited to get going again.”
Thanks to SwimSwam partner Speedo.
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