Adversity is still not a struggle grave enough to stop Kierra Smith.
The Kelowna, B.C., native was nominated for the Canadian Pan Am and FINA World Championships team this past weekend at the 2015 Canada Swim Trials thanks to an impressive second place performance in her forte, the 100m breaststroke.
Before Smith’s triumphant placement on both teams for her country, she suffered a heartbreaking disqualification in the 200m breaststroke for her elbow being out of the water too soon.
The junior’s deep connection to her own maturity as an athlete defined how she reacted in those crucial moments.
“I know that the official was just trying to help the sport,” said Smith, in a phone interview Tuesday.
“I understand where he was coming from and I’m glad it happened this year so I can be sure to fix it for next year. I’m working on that never happening to me again.”
Smith’s level of self-evaluation is what comes as a part of a rich package that makes her into an athlete who could represent Canada for time to come – in her sights, like many other athletes is the Olympic games in 2016.
The junior’s University of Minnesota coach, Kelly Kremer, is on board with her decision to take next year off to prepare for this endeavour.
“I’m fully supportive of her taking the year off,” said Kremer.
“I think she knows in herself she wants to give 100 per cent to this stuff. She has a chance to do great things in the Olympics for Canada next year.”
The experienced coach’s insight on Smith’s future success comes from a trusting and dedicated relationship to his Canadian swimmer.
Smith openly credits Kremer for being a tremendous influence on her growth, including within her transition period during her difficult and often frustrating freshman year.
“He’s always believed in me, even in my freshman year. I had a really rough freshman year my head wasn’t where it was suppose to be,” said Smith.
“I was putting in the time but I wasn’t getting the results in practice and that did not translate to racing obviously. He never got frustrated with me. He’s offered a lot of guidance because he’s had so much experience with swimmers having a hard time through college.
He got a great work ethic out of me, I’ve done practices that I didn’t think we’re imaginable. He really pushed me to a different limit this year and last year. He made me into a better racer and swimmer.”
The healthy bond between Kremer and Smith seems indestructible and it comes with a profound understanding of one another. An example of this was on display this past weekend when both coach and athlete were faced with the unusual hiccup of an unfortunate disqualification.
“I was so impressed with how Kierra responded and how she reacted to an odd set of circumstances and she handled it so well, like a pro really,” said Kremer.
“Not only athletically but how she behaves and how she treats herself in terms of being an athlete and being in the spotlight. I think how she handles things is really a reflection of not just me but really all the other coaches she has as well.”
Smith’s example will be what could carry her into her ultimate domain, the world stage in Rio next summer.
“To represent Canada this year was important … I think that I have a legitimate shot at it and this is just going to be good preparation for Rio Olympic trials and Rio next year.”
In an earlier version of this story, the name of Minnesota coach Kelly Kremer was misspelled. The Observer apologizes for the error.
Follow Lauren Maharaj on Twitter @l_maharaj40