I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a breaststroke event with more than 40 other swimmers in it before. Yesterday, I swam the 100 breast, an event that got me to the Pan Am games last year, and I finished 42nd. No, that’s not a typo. I would have been the 2nd alternate if they had D finals and a 10 lane pool. Lane 5 in the E final. I tried not to cry talking to Kelly afterwards. In a perverse twist I felt sorry for him because no one really knows what to say to a swimmer after something like that. Once I got back to my hotel room, instead of napping and preparing for finals all I could do was think. I had already finished season five of gossip girl on the plane, so I was all by myself with 3 freaking hours to kill. I considered smashing the hotel room chair into the TV set. I even wondered how long it would take the Embassy Suites manager and security guards to come to the room to kick me out. This fantasy continued with one of the security guards recognizing me and whispering into the manager’s ear “that’s kierra smith….she expected to final but finished 42nd so best to leave her alone” …..manager then nods knowingly and leaves awkwardly cause he doesn’t know what to say to me either.
I’ve had disappointing swim meets in the past. I grew up driving the 4 hour drive to UBC too many times knowing full well I’d be slapped all over the pool by both Annamay and Martha (and Bronwyn and Chelsea and the other Pierce girls, and the other UBC girls). I was seeded first headed into finals at Canadian Nationals in Montreal two years ago, but found out I DQd because of a pullout. I missed out on Jr. Worlds by 0.04. I’m 0 for 2 in swim offs and I’ve been out touched by everyone and anyone. It was never a big deal though because I was always getting faster and knew I’d get improve next year. I’m not sure how to explain it…I just knew and didn’t care if anyone else thought otherwise.
The expectations were so high this year. I came to Minnesota from a pretty small club. I hardly did any weight training, we only had about 12-13 hours of weekly pool time in one of those standard issue 25 metre 6 lane pools and I wasn’t really pushed by anyone in practice. This year I’m a lot stronger from weights and I usually get my own lane in one of the nicest pools I’ve ever seen. Regular massages, committed coaches, trainers, tutors, unlimited everything….It was as though I had my own entourage whose only job was to make sure I swam fast. How could I not succeed?
If you’re still reading and waiting for the answer, I don’t know either. Maybe it’s as simple as I was outworked and the other 41 were wanted it more than I did. Swimmers are better than everyone else with excuses (messed up taper, slow pool, sick etc.) and if you’re reading an obscure swimming blog like this you know them all too. Fact is I was rested, tapered, healthy, excited, nervous, but the speed just wasn’t there. I walked into the pool Thursday and had the feeling like I didn’t belong in the same competition as Schmidt, Leverenz, Bootsma, Larson and all the other girls I’ve only read about. It was an uneasy feeling and reminded me of the old Martha/Annamay days. There’s no secret formula to this sport and I know I’m going to have to work a LOT harder, take care of my body better, eat better, sleep more, lift more, train harder and pray more if I ever want to see myself belonging at a meet like this.
I’m feel sorry for letting everyone down this week and hope I’m able to turn it around. My little brother is an MMA fighter (cage fighting) so I watch a lot fighting and my favourite part is the post fight interview with the losing fighter. That sport has no public relations scripting and the loser either makes the usual banal excuses or owns the loss like rock star. If someone were to stick a microphone in front of me today I’d just say that I sucked out there and I’m sorry.
When that inner voice of mine inside my head talks to me and whispers “Kierra, the ride’s over…you’re an impostor here…you made a mistake coming to the USA….everyone home is thinking I-told-you-so…you don’t have what it takes” I hope I’m able to summon up an even louder inner voice and shout back “fuck you”. Time will tell which inner voice wins out but I’m going to pick up the pieces here in Indy, head back to Minnesota tomorrow and figure out how to get this train back onto the track.