17-Year-Old American Swimmer Regan Smith On Track For 2020 Olympics With Record-Breaking Swim At World Championships

She's only just getting started.

Who Is Regan Smith? New Details On 17-Year-Old Swimmer Who Broke Record 200 Meter Backstroke And Won Gold At World Championships Getty 

In the world of professional swimming, fractions of a second can be all that stands between an athlete breaking a record or ending their career. Swimmers start training from a very young age just to have a shot of becoming one of the greats. That's the case for Regan Smith. She started young and it was clear even when she was just starting out that she had what it takes to go the distance. Now, she's breaking world records and people are already talking about the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Who is Regan Smith?


1. A Star Is Born 

On Saturday, July 27th 17-year-old Regan Smith smashed the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and went on to win the world championship in Gwangju, South Korea. For Regan it seemed like there was no beating her time of 2:06.43 in the backstroke that she set the day before, but she did it, coming in with a time of 2:06.01. NBC announcer Dan Hicks shouted, ‘’A star is born!’’ as Smith completed her record-breaking swim. His broadcast partner, Rowdy Gaines, jumped out of his seat and crowed, “It’s unbelievable what she’s doing," making it clear that this wasn't a fluke, we were watching a true legend of the swim world being born. 


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2. Going For Gold 

She might be setting records all around the globe, but that doesn't mean that Smith has already leapt forward in time to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She knows that there's a lot of practice and dedication that's going to go into making it to the summer games. “Even now, people at school will joke about it and ask me about going to the Olympics. It’s always there. It’s always in my mind. But at the same time, I’m pushing it away from the center of my focus," she said. That's probably a smart strategy especially when you factor in that Smith is still just a senior in high school. She's got so much on her plate that keeping a healthy sense of distance and circumspection is the only way she can be sure to stay focused.


3. Multiple Medals? 

As soon as Smith broke the record set by legendary swimmer Missy Franklin, people started doing a deep dive into Smith and her skills. It wasn't too long before they realized that if she trained accordingly and qualified, Smith could actually compete on the Olympic team in more than one event, just like the five-time winner Franklin did. The 200-meter backstroke was the only individual event where she competed at the world championships but she is also ranked second in the world when it comes to another event, the 100-meter backstroke and she's only getting better, and faster. It's really only a matter of time until she's dominating on an Olympic level.  

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4. Keeping Cool Under Pressure

“I wouldn’t dare say, ‘This could happen, or that could happen,’’’ said Mike Parratto, Smith's coach. “I leave it as open-ended. I wouldn’t put a limit on what she can do." This type of mindset seems to be contagious. It seems that keeping her head on straight is one of the keys to her success.“I hate getting too far ahead of myself,’’ she shared. “Thinking about the future is something I’m really bad at. I’m always like, ‘Let’s take it one day at a time.’ A year might seem like it’s really close, but I have time. I’ll keep (the Olympics) in the back of my head, but I want to just keep my routine the same, and kind of let things work out for themselves.’’

5. Regan Smith's Record To Date 

This year wasn't the first time that Smith has made an appearance at the world championship. Back in 2017 she placed 8th in the 200-meter backstroke and said that she approached that meet not to place in the top five but as a way to learn more about what it takes to truly be a competitor among world-class athletes in her sport. So in one sense, she's actually a veteran when it comes to meets of this caliber, but as the youngest member of the country's team by three-plus years, she also still is aware that she has a long way to go.  “I guess I’m more seasoned,’’ Smith said. “Two years ago at worlds, I was so young. I was kind of bug-eyed the whole time. Now I feel more at ease with everything, which is really cool.’’


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6. A Long Time Coming

While some people in the world of swimming are just now learning about Smith and what she can do, to those who take this business seriously, she's a familiar name having placed her first national age-group record when she was just 10-years-old. Think about what you were doing when you were 10, because I can almost universally guarantee all of you that it wasn't as awesome. Spending so much time around other seasoned swimmers at so young an age had a serious impact on her work ethic, according to her coach. “She learned how to play the game. There are so many little things to learn, and she was surrounded by people who knew how to do it," he shared.


Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cats, Batman and Margot. She's an experienced generalist with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, pop culture, and true crime.