Swimming-Smith conquers self-doubt to regain backstroke world record


  • Swimming
  • Wednesday, 19 Jun 2024

Fukuoka 2023 World Aquatics Championships - Swimming - Marine Messe Fukuoka Hall A, Fukuoka, Japan - July 29, 2023 Regan Smith of the U.S. in action during the women's 200m backstroke final REUTERS/Issei Kato/ File Photo

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Regan Smith was so riddled with self-doubt the American thought her days of breaking backstroke records were gone for good, but after learning to tame her emotions she is once again on top of the world.

Smith said on Tuesday that the newfound sense of belief in herself was key to regaining a 100m backstroke world record she set in 2019 as a 17-year-old.

"It's confidence all the way," she told reporters after clocking a sizzling 57.13 at the U.S. Olympic trials to slash 0.2 seconds off Australian Kaylee McKeown's mark.

"I've always had it physically. I've always had like a God-given natural ability to swim backstroke but I just never believed in myself ever and that's always going to be a work-in-progress."

In contrast to the highs of setting a world record in Indianapolis on Tuesday, Smith said her lowest point came at trails for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

"I just didn't want to be there. I wasn't excited. I had no faith in myself," she said.

"I wanted other people to do it because I thought that they were going to be better at doing it than I was."

That all began to change when she started working with a sports psychologist in October last year. The 22-year-old said she has seen steady improvement in her mental health and performances ever since.

"What I really struggle with is separating emotion from logic, and I think the best of the best, they are able to stay logical in the hardest times," she said.

"Because when logic goes out the door and emotion comes in, that's when you choke, and I did that over and over because I just let my emotions take over."

Despite her struggles she still managed to pick up three Olympic medals in Tokyo.

Now brimming with confidence, Smith said she is eager for the showdown with McKeown in Paris where she believes she can break her own record and get her hands on her first Olympic gold medal.

"I'm not going to sell myself short, absolutely not," she said.

"That was an amazing race but it wasn't a perfect race. I know there's things that I can clean up and do better, and I'm going to work towards that."

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Indianapolis; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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