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Lakeville's Regan Smith perseveres through the pandemic to earn a spot in next month's Olympics

Smith will swim the 100M backstroke in Tokyo.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn — During the pandemic, Lakeville swimmer and Olympic hopeful Regan Smith, found some new hobbies.

"My sister has an old, 2003 game cube and I have been playing a lot of Super Smash," says the 19-year old Smith.

All jokes aside, for a young woman who spent nearly all day, every week in the pool, she actually enjoyed her forced downtime.

"It's like I think I needed to do that," says Smith. "I got to be a kid. I got to be a teenager. I got to have fun. I got those few months to have some more time."

But it wasn't all fun and games. Smith delayed her enrollment at Stanford to continue to train for her coach Mike Parratto and prepare for the Olympics. And like many Olympic hopefuls, she struggled with the motivation to keep going.

"It felt like it was never gonna happen," says Smith. "And I was struggling a lot with motivation. Like, 'Why am I doing this?'"

Her first race back she quickly figured out the answer: it was her drive for excellence 

"Once things ramped up in the fall and especially in that meet in November where I really didn't do that well I was like 'OK, lets put my head down and lets get back to work.'"

And work she has. In March, Smith broke the American record in the 100 yard backstroke and swam the second fastest time of any American woman in the 200 yard fly. She knows she's swimming her best right now, and refuses to use a pandemic as a reason for not being at her best.

"It's easy to kind of make excuses for myself because if I'm not on my game it's because of everything that happened," says Smith. "Everyone had that happen to them."

But not everyone can have a chance to go to the Olympic games, certainly not at 19. Wise beyond her years, Smith knows she needs to savor all of this.

"I really want to live in the moment there and the games. They could easily not have happened at all. And If I am able to make it and perform my best and be happy."