Catching Up with Regan Smith in 2024

By Foss Swim School

It’s been quite a year for world-championship swimmer Regan Smith, a Foss Swim School alum who is a strong contender for Team USA at the 2024 Paris Olympics. While the final team will be determined in June, Regan’s history of success at the 2020 Olympic Games and in World Championship competition means that her time between now and the summer is focused on getting to the Games – training, competing, and getting emotionally ready.

But if there’s one truth she’s experienced over the past year, it’s that things don’t always go according to plan, even when you have the ability and do all the right things. It’s a lesson in resilience and self-awareness she hopes young swimmers – and really, everyone – can take to heart.


A Year of Physical and Personal Ups and Downs

We all can relate to good days and bad days, but those can be intensified when so much of your time and energy is focused on a goal. “It was primarily a very good year,” Regan said. “Training was great and very consistent. I was doing very well at competitions. Then in March we went to the Olympic Training Center, and then five days into the trip I got COVID.”

The illness forced Regan to take time off. “I was angry about it, but had to take time off, listen to my body,” she said. Then it was back into training and a series of meets, including some of her best of the year in early summer. She competed at the World Championships held in Japan in July and won five medals (silver in 50M, 100M and 200M backstroke, bronze in 200M butterfly and a gold in the 4x100M medley relay.)

Having been seeded higher, Regan felt some disappointment. “My coach told me I was one of only four women to ever win four individual medals at a world championships. So it was an incredible accomplishment but I fell short of the goals I had set for myself,” she said. “But looking glass half-full, I felt like I had lots of room to improve.” Time off in August – “ninety percent on the couch” – she then spent the fall having what she called the best training season she’s had, leading up to the US Open in December, winning gold in both the 100M and 200M backstroke as well as the 200M butterfly, with record times for the event.

“I got back from that event in the second week of December, and then I got mono,” Regan said. “That tanked the rest of my year.”


Be Positive, But Don’t Ignore the Negative

Dealing with adversity, Smith stresses, “is so much easier said than done. “Right now I can be like ‘Life is tough, but take it one day at a time, you’re strong, you’ll get through this.’ But three weeks ago I thought my Olympic dream was ruined, thought my life was imploding. I still teeter between feeling very logical and very emotional.”

Being resilient, Regan said, isn’t just about pushing through hard times. It’s learning to recognize and acknowledge them when they come and finding ways to bridge those low points, knowing it’s going to take extra effort and the humility to accept help. “That’s all part of the process,” she said. “What helps me is talking to people. Talking to my sports psychologist helps a lot, talking constantly to my family and friends.”


A New Focus on Friendships and the Future

Some of the biggest positives of the year have come from Regan’s time at Arizona State University, where she lives and trains. Her coach is also the ASU men’s and women’s swim coach, and Regan has treasured the time they get to spend together.

“I only did one year of college at Stanford before going pro, so I didn’t get the college experience,” she said. “This fall I was so excited to train with the ASU college team. I really bonded with them. We had so many fun bonding experiences. We had a team sleepover, we play cards, we float down the river on the weekend. One of the most fun seasons I’ve ever had.”

It’s also inspired Regan to think about life after swimming. She is enrolling at ASU and plans to study psychology. “I’ve become very passionate about the way I work and the way humans around me work,” she said. “It fascinates me.” She values the chance to think more broadly. “It used to be all about swimming, and it felt like once I’m done swimming, who will I be?”


Objective: Paris

Whatever the future holds, between now and August Regan’s life will be about preparing for the Olympics in Paris. “I’ve been feeling better, and in the pool, I’m getting better, faster and stronger week after week,” she said.

There will be more training at the US Olympic Center in Colorado, a series of meets to tune up and prepare, culminating in the Olympic trials in June and then a final training camp in Croatia before the big event. She especially enjoys training camps and the camaraderie she feels with the team.

“The biggest thing I realized is I don’t want to go through this alone,” Regan said. “That’s not what we’re put on this earth to do. We are here to share experiences and lean on one another. Not be dependent but understand we can use our resources to get back where we want to be.”

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