Move south part of Olympic journey

Ciara Smith takes a break from training at Moana Pool earlier this year. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Ciara Smith takes a break from training at Moana Pool earlier this year. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Ciara Smith has her eyes on Paris.

Dunedin is where she has come to try to get there.

The Olympic hopeful has moved south to add another quality swimmer to the city’s increasingly successful programme run by coaches Lars Humer and Kurt Crosland.

Her target is the 2024 Games, although she will have a shot at the rescheduled Tokyo Games for next year, too.

A talented breaststroker, Smith (19) had been unsure what to do after finishing school in Whangarei in 2018.

Swimming was a certainty, but a gap year convinced her she was not finished studying.

A potential scholarship in the United States fell through and she had not wanted to move to Auckland.

So she followed her brother and sister to Dunedin.

She has since begun a double major in zoology and psychology.

The move was a big vote of confidence for the Dunedin swim programme.

In the past, many of the city’s talented swimmers have moved away to further their careers.

When fellow Olympic hopeful Caitlin Deans decided to stay — the quality of the Humer-led programme being a big reason — it was the first sign of progress.

To get Smith moving from elsewhere shows the programme’s growing reputation.

She joins Deans and Erika Fairweather among those with Olympic aspirations in Dunedin.

"I was definitely happy with the place I was going," she said.

"New Zealand has good programmes across the country.

"So I was very fortunate there was one down here that suits me quite well."

She was enjoying the programme’s flexibility, which allowed her to work in well with her studies.

Throughout lockdown she had been forced to adapt.

Most of her training equipment was still at home, so she made do with a yoga mat, medicine ball and running.

Getting back into the water had felt strange at first, although she was happy with where she was at now.

She brings plenty of international experience, notably having competed at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.

Alongside that she has raced at the World Cup in China, the World Short Course Championships in Japan and several meetings in Australia.

A lot of those came in a six-month stretch in 2018, in which she had a big meeting every month.

That had motivated her to get to the next level, which could lead her to sport’s pinnacle event.

"It was very hard, but I think it was very good. It was a huge learning curve.

"I went to quite big meets and I saw how hard I had to work and the potential there was in swimming.

"It was a big positive.

"It was in my last year of high school. It was hard to keep up in school, but I really enjoyed it; it was good."


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