Meet Regan Smith, the 19-Year-Old Swimmer Who Could Win Gold in Tokyo

If you've been watching swimming at all during the Tokyo Olympics, you've probably heard the name Regan Smith. After qualifying for multiple Olympic events, Smith came into the Games as one of the favorites for USA Swimming — and she has quickly lived up to expectations, securing the top seed in the 100m backstroke finals.

The 19-year-old from Minnesota first made headlines in 2019, when she broke swim legend Missy Franklin's world record in the 200m backstroke, but her rapid rise was put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed back the Olympics by a full year. "I think putting things on hold and putting things at a stop was very strange, and I think I kind of lost my mojo, just because the hype was really building for me but I wasn't doing anything performance-wise to back it up," Smith told Swimming World in May 2021.

Still, she's back in the pool and blazing forward with her Olympic dreams! Here's what else you should know about one of Team USA's brightest rising stars.

She's Worked Hard to Get Back in Shape Post-Pandemic
Getty | Maddie Meyer

She's Worked Hard to Get Back in Shape Post-Pandemic

In 2019, Smith seemed poised to be unstoppable at the Olympics in 2020, but, of course, things didn't quite work out as planned. After months away from training due to COVID-19 restrictions, Smith revealed, training didn't exactly start out smoothly.

"By the time August rolled around, training was really rough because we weren't doing as much as we had been and I wasn't going as fast as I had normally been going in practice," Smith told Swimming World. "Backstroke, in particular, felt really rough. I remember it got to the point where I would avoid backstroke and do butterfly instead, just because backstroke felt so funky. Nobody really wants to do fly in practice."

She had a breakthrough by the end of 2020, but she still had to work to stay both physically and mentally prepared. "It's weird," Smith explained to Swimming World prior to the Olympic trials. "If this were a year ago, I'd be like, 'Sick. I just did those times a year ago. I'm ready to do them again.' And now, I'm two years removed. We'll see what happens." Smith did, of course, ultimately qualify for the Olympics — but not in the event that had been her signature, the 200m backstroke.


She's Headed to Stanford

"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," Smith announced on Instagram in 2019. But despite being excited about starting college at Stanford, Smith decided to defer her acceptance and take a gap year in 2020-2021 to focus on training for the Olympics.

"This was a really, really hard decision to make. Especially because I felt so firm for so long about going off to school this fall," Smith told SwimSwam in July 2020. "I'm really disappointed and sad, but I know that this will probably be the best for me. I think this will give me the best chance to have a strong year at home with some more consistent training, and then hopefully be able to have a more normal freshman year next year."

She's Been Racking Up the Awards For Years
Getty | Kevork Djansezian

She's Been Racking Up the Awards For Years

Smith has been making major waves for the past few years, bringing home the hardware from competitions and organizations all over the swim world. In 2019, she took home three Golden Goggle awards for breakout performer of the year, female race of the year, and relay performance of the year. She's also won two world gold medals and an array of medals at other major competitions over the course of her career, and she's just getting started!

She Loves the Sense of Community in the Swimming World
Getty | Tom Pennington

She Loves the Sense of Community in the Swimming World

"I just miss being with my club team," Smith told the New York Times in May 2020, when asked what she missed most during the coronavirus shutdown. "I was really looking forward to having my last spring season with my whole team and all my best friends. Spring season was the most fun for me. Every Friday during spring season a whole bunch of us would go out and get fast food and hang out together. I miss that a lot."


She Knows How to Relax and Have Fun

Smith spent those months at home during COVID-19 just like the rest of us. "I have two dogs, so I've been spending a lot of time with them. They are big stress relievers so I will just sit and pet them," Smith told the New York Times. "I've been watching a lot of random TV shows. I'm not really a great binge watcher. I love Stranger Things, and I'll binge that, but you can only do that so many times before you get sick of it. I typically just watch whatever is on TV."

According to her family, she also has a goofy side that you don't get to see when she's focused on the competition. "She can be as goofy and funny as anyone I know, but it's selective," her father, Paul Smith, told Swimming World. "It has to be in a safe place. She has to be in the right mood. And then all the sudden, she can just be a complete goofball. And people don't really see that side of her."