Then 17-year-old Regan Smith was the breakout star of the 2019 World Swimming Championships, where she broke three world records in the span of two days. Things will be a bit different for Smith in Tokyo as the Minnesota native projects to be among the favorites each time she enters the pool. She’ll hope to deliver an Olympic performance reminiscent of another teenaged backstroke phenom, her childhood hero Missy Franklin, whose record she broke at Worlds.
As part of our preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what we learned about Regan Smith:
Where are you from?
I was born in Redwood Shores, Calif. and moved to Lakeville, Minn. when I was eight months old. My dad's side of the family is from the south and my mom's side of the family is from Iowa.
How much time do you train?
I train eight times a week in the pool and I double twice a week. On a typical double day, I will wake up at 4:50 in the morning. Practice is from 5:30-6:40. I have school and homework from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then I have my second practice of the day from 3 p.m. to 5:30.
What’s your favorite workout?
I like dryland workouts that involve core activation and core work.
Any surprising things about your training?
I don't feel like I have had to sacrifice anything to get to where I'm at today and I feel very lucky.
Do you have a nutrition plan?
I am not strict about my nutrition. I'm still pretty young and I don't want to force myself to eat healthy if I don't feel like it. My dinner could range from grilled chicken, potatoes, and broccoli to a cheeseburger, fries and ice cream.
What’s your earliest memory of swimming competitively?
My first swim meet memory was at my swim school when I was seven. I remember winning my first race and feeling so hooked that I wanted to keep going and never stop.
What would you change about your sport?
I wish our sport had a bigger audience in non-Olympic years. I think our sport is so interesting and many more people could enjoy it.
Are you close friends with any competitors?
I have not become close friends with many international swimmers simply because I haven't been on the international scene for a long time. I hope to continue to meet new people as I progress in the sport.
What’s the biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome?
There was a time in my early teens when I was plateauing. It was really hard to overcome that because I was so young. it's uncommon to plateau at an age like that so it was crucial to pinpoint why I wasn't getting faster and move past it.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
I am always afraid that I'm not good enough to be competing at this level. I always walk into meets with low expectations because I really don't believe that I'm capable of much more. However, I've proven that I am very capable and hope to work past this mental block.
Who is your Olympic role model?
My Olympic role model was always Missy Franklin because she was such a strong female figure in this sport. I adored everything she stood for, how hard she worked and how talented she was.
Which Winter Olympic sport would you like to try?
I would love to try ice skating. I took lessons when I was younger but never at a serious level. I always enjoy watching skating.
Any pre-competition rituals?
I love having my nails done for a swim meet. It makes me feel more put together and I have a lot of fun picking out my colors to coordinate with the meet I'm going to.
Are you superstitious?
I always pack my pink crocs when going to meets. Even if I don't always wear them on deck, they're always packed with me. I have had them for almost five years.
What do you watch to unwind?
I love watching “Friends,” “Stranger Things,” “South Park,” or whatever I'm in the mood for. I'm not a big binge-watcher. The only show that I will binge is “Stranger Things.”
What would you be doing if you were not an athlete?
I would like to be playing an instrument like the piano. My parents are both musically inclined and I took lessons when I was younger.
Do you listen to music at competitions?
I actually hate listening to music before I race because I feel like it distracts me. I think I feed off the energy in the crowd really well and that motivates me more than any song. I like being present in the moment at competitions instead of zoning out with music.
If you could hear from one celebrity, who would it be?
I love watching gymnastics so any gymnast would be really fun and interesting to meet.