Kelowna Olympic swimmer Kierra Smith was ready to perform on the world’s biggest stage again this summer until the 2020 Olympics were postponed to 2021 because of COVID-19. (Contributed)

Okanagan Olympian finds silver lining in postponement of summer Olympics

Kelowna swimmer Kierra Smith returns to the Okanagan to start an extra year of training

It’s come full circle for Olympic swimmer Kierra Smith.

After staring her swimming career in Kelowna over 10 years ago, the 2016 Rio Olympian has returned to the Okanagan to train and prepare after the 2020 Olympics were postponed in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this week.

“It was just so unrealistic, you’d have never had foreseen this,” said Smith.

“But it had to happen. I’m grateful for the Canadian Olympic Committee for valuing us as people and not just athletes. Now I can focus on staying safe and healthy, and I get to use this extra time to amp myself up. It’s another year I get in my career, another year of the pressure, excitement and focus. It’ll be good.”

READ MORE: Canadian IOC member Dick Pound expects Olympic postponement

A member of the Canadian national team since 2014, the former Kelowna Aquajet has been training hard since the 2016 Olympics in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, where she placed 7th in the 100-metre breaststroke).

Now, with the Tokyo Olympics pushed ahead to 2021, having her entire schedule shifted and pushed back to adapt to the pandemic is just another challenge that she, and other Olympians, must overcome.

“Athletes are adaptable by nature,” said Smith.

“It gives up-and-comers a chance to continue to develop, which, big scheme, is very good for our country and teams. There are inevitable ups and downs in any sport, and I think everyone can adapt to it and come out stronger on the other end.”

Coming back to the Okanagan after living her life in Minneapolis and Toronto wasn’t just for the comfort of being at home with family and friends during a global crisis, it was a strategic move to focus on her training by reconnecting with Aquajets coach Emil Dimitrov.

Smith said that she always saw herself training once again in Kelowna and didn’t want to do that without her former coach.

“We’ve gone back to the basics,” she said.

“Emil listens and that really helps me develop a cohesive breaststroke.

“It makes a difference the way people speak to you when you train and luckily for me he’s willing to work with me right now.

It makes trying to be the best in the world a lot easier.”

READ MORE: Kelowna golf clubs close after brief grace period during COVID-19 pandemic

With the decision to delay the Olympics to next summer now, she’s focusing on the things that are in her control — her training, attitude and perseverance.

“I’m just thinking about swimming and being on the podium,” Smith said.

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