Regan Smith, a 17-year-old US swimmer, broke the World Record for the 200-meter backstroke Friday, July 26 at the 2019 World Champs Semifinals. Her impressive time of 2:03.35 beat the previous world record of 2:04.06, earned by USA’s Missy Franklin in the 2012 Olympics.
Before taking claim as the new 200m backstroke World Record holder, Smith broke her personal record during the competition’s preliminaries with a time of 2:06.01. Her World Record time was almost 3 seconds faster than that, quickly overcaming her shortly-held personal best from that morning. When she shattered the World Record time, she also won her race, qualifying for the 2019 World Champs Finals
Here’s what you need to know about Regan Smith:
1. She Is Committed to Stanford University’s Swim Team Class of 2024
In addition to being an extremely gifted swimmer, she is also a top-notch student and is already committed to swim and study at Stanford University as part of the class of 2024. She is scheduled to start at the University in Fall 2020.
On June 30, 2019, she shared the news with her friends, family, and fans on Instagram. Along with a photo of her proudly wearing a Stanford University t-shirt, she wrote “It is with so much excitement and pride that I announce my verbal commitment to Stanford University! It has been my dream to swim and study at Stanford since I was 10 years old. I want to thank my amazing friends, family, teachers, and coach Mike for all of their support in getting me to this point. I can’t wait for life on the farm!!”
2. Neither of Regan’s Parents Have a Background in Competitive Swimming
While some might think that an athletic talent like Smith’s is hereditary, her parents are not swimmers. According to Twin Cities Pioneer Press, they signed her up for swimming as a child just for fun and to learn water safety.
Her father, Paul Smith, told the Pioneer Press that her potential as a competitive swimmer first became apparent when her instructors held a casual “mini-meet” for their students. He said “It just came naturally to her,” and the instructors were shocked by her performance in that first race.
Her sister Brenna, however, did swim competitively on a local team, and Regan decided to try it for herself after watching one of her sister’s meets.
3. She Is From Lakeville, Minnesota
Although she is often traveling around the world for races and meets these days, home for Regan is Lakeville, Minnesota. She is a student at Lakeville North High School, where she is expected to graduate next year.
She started swimming for the Minnesota-based South Metro Storm Swim Club, and by seventh grade was part of the high school’s swim team. Until she was 13 years old, however, Regan asserts that she only practiced 3 days a week. Her focus eventually shifted from her school team to her club team, where she could train for national competition.
4. She Swam Against Missy Franklin, the Previous World Record Holder, in 2016
Missy Franklin, whose record Smith broke on July 26, 2019, raced in the 2016 Olympic Trials against Regan and beat her in the 100-meter backstroke. Smith, who was only 14 at the time, finished 12th in the semi-finals.
Her coach, Mike Parratto, was Olympic gold medal-winner Jenny Thompson’s coach, and he sees Smith’s long-term potential. He told the Pioneer Press “She is following a similar path (to Franklin). That doesn’t guarantee anything for the future, but it looks pretty good.”
5. Regan’s Goal Is to Compete, & Win, on Team USA in the Olympics
In a June 2019 interview with USA Swimming, Regan reflected on what the near future holds for her. She said “next year will definitely be a very exciting one. It is crazy to think that Trials and college are just one year away. At 2016 trials, I was heading into my freshman year of high school, so 2020 Trials will be a very different experience for me.” She told the Pioneer Press that she intended to use that first experience at the Olympic Trials to work hard and make the 2020 US team and compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Though she certainly has her sights set on the Olympics, and her early success proves that she has the potential to excell at that top level of competition, she told USA Swimming “I am not one who tends to think too far out into the future, but just knowing that all of these things are so close is very motivating to me and it’s something that I keep in my mind at practice every day.” She later added “To be honest, I have always felt like I’ve been living my swimming dream. All I ever wanted was to have fun in my sport and be the absolute best I could be. There was never a certain ‘aha’ moment that I experienced where I realized what I was beginning to accomplish; it was just a great sport to compete in from the beginning.”