Regan Smith Makes 2019 Time Next 100 List
Triple world record holder Regan Smith was named to Time Magazine’s “Next 100,” a list that “spotlights 100 rising stars who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, science, health and more.” Smith is apart of the phenom category, including other big names such as Lil Nas X, Keke Palmer, Coco Gauff and Emma Chamberlain. Other high profile members of the Next 100 list are 2020 democratic leader candidate, Pete Buttigieg, best selling artist, Billy Eilish and two time Olympic gymnast, Ally Raisman.
At her first senior international meet, the 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships, Smith placed eighth in the 200 back as a 15-year-old with a time of 2:07.42. A few weeks later at the World Junior Swimming Championships, she raced to a gold medal in the 100 and 200 back, setting a world junior record in the 100 (59.11). Smith continued to race fast and pick up momentum, winning her first national title at 2018 US National Championships in the 200 back and going on to win a bronze medal in that same event at 2018 Pan Pacs.
TIME is honoring Smith after her breakthrough performance at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. Smith was the youngest swimmer named to the American team for that meet and qualified to race the 200 back individually. In the prelims of the event, Smith was the top qualifier, breaking her own world junior record with a 2:06.01. In the semi-finals, Smith blew away the field with a world-record breaking swim of 2:03.35, smashing Missy Franklin’s 2:04.06. In the final, she was just 0.34 seconds slower, with a 2:03.69 but still took home the gold medal by a margin of 2.5 seconds, ahead of Australia’s Kaylee McKeown.
Breaking a world record at age 17 is a remarkably impressive feat on its own, but what set Smith even further apart was her next performance; the opening leg of the 4×100 medley relay. Although she didn’t get chosen to swim the 100 back individually, her 200 back performance made her the American choice for the finals leg relay, ahead of teammates Kathleen Baker and Olivia Smoliga. Smith did not disappoint leading the heat out in a 57.57, becoming the first female ever under the 58 second mark in the long course 100 back.
When Lilly King, Kelsi Dahlia and Simone Manuel finished off the relay in a 3:50.40, they not only set a world record but helped Regan Smith to break her third world record that week and second in that race. Despite only racing in one individual event and one relay, Smith had easily one of the most impressive performances at 2019 Worlds.
The nod to the “Times Next” list is the latest of many accolades that Smith has received in recognition for her breakout performance this summer. She received the Phillips 66 Performance of the Year Award, an award given out by the USA Swimming House of Delegates for an outstanding race by an American swimmer. She was also nominated for nearly every possible Golden Goggle Award; breakout performer, relay performance, female race, and female athlete. Smith is still building on the momentum of her past season and as the current world record holder for both Olympic backstroke events, Smith is the favourite to race the events in Tokyo 2020.