People throughout the sports world, from athletes to arena staff members, tell The New York Times how their lives have changed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Regan Smith was peaking at just the right time for the 2020 Summer Olympics. She had a breakout season last year, winning gold in the 200-meter backstroke and the 400-meter medley relay at the world championships. She also broke the world records in the 100- and the 200-meter backstroke.
Now, with the Tokyo Games postponed until summer 2021, she is just trying to finish high school.
Smith, who lives in Lakeville, Minn., has been finishing her senior year virtually and trying to find new hobbies to fill her free time. In the fall, she is committed to going to Stanford, where she will train with Greg Meehan, the head coach of the United States Olympic women’s swim team.
Smith returned to the pool on May 18 after a two-month absence, but her time in the water has been limited because just one swimmer per lane is allowed. Before that, she described her routine during the coronavirus shutdown.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Q: How have you been staying in shape?
Smith: Without pool space, I’ve just been trying to work with what I have at my house. I’ve been running a lot. We have a great treadmill, so I’ve been doing that some. If it’s nice enough outside — it’s been rough here; we’ve had some snow — then I’ll run outside. My strength coach has been really great. She’s been sending me some awesome workouts I can do remotely.
What was a normal day like for you, before the coronavirus interrupted your schedule?
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I get to wake up at 8 a.m., then I go to class from 9 to 11 a.m. I just have two classes at school, math and English. Then I come home at 11 and I do my online classes until it’s time to leave for dry-land training at 1:30. I have practice in the pool from 3 to 5:30. After that I come home, have dinner, do extra homework and chill until it’s time to go to bed. Tuesdays and Thursdays are basically the same thing, except I have an extra practice in the pool in the morning, so my day starts at 4:50. Saturdays we just had one practice from 7 to 10 a.m.
You have been a part of the Riptide swim club for most of your career, and this was going to be your last chance to swim with that team before college. What do you miss the most about swimming with your team?
I just miss being with my club team. The way that high school swimming in Minnesota works, the girls’ season is during the fall and the boys’ is during the winter, so we would have all been back together, boys and girls, in the spring. Our whole group hasn’t really been together in so long now. We had high school season, so half the team was gone. I was really looking forward to having my last spring season with my whole team and all my best friends. Spring season was the most fun for me. Every Friday during spring season a whole bunch of us would go out and get fast food and hang out together. I miss that a lot.
Are you disappointed about not getting to have your prom, graduation and other special senior events?
It’s actually been completely fine. Which may sound odd, but with my lifestyle and swimming I’ve grown accustomed to missing out on school-related functions. I think I’m really lucky that my personality type has allowed me to accept that and understand that this is the life I chose. I know I’m not missing out. I don’t feel sad if I can’t go to a football game or I can’t go to a dance or something. In my mind, it’s not like I can’t go, I’m choosing not to. I’m choosing something that makes me happier and that I have more fun with.
With respect to prom, my boyfriend is actually in college, so he could have come back and taken me there, but I would have preferred to go out to dinner or do something fun on our own. It’s funny about graduation. Before Olympic trials had gotten canceled, my swim team had planned on doing a small training trip to Fort Myers, Fla., and they were going to leave a few days before my graduation. So, I would have missed that anyway. Which sounds sad, but in my mind this is what I chose and this is what I want to do. I would way rather be in Florida training. This is for me and the life I want.
You are committed to start swimming at Stanford this fall, after the original dates for the Olympics. When the Games were postponed, did you consider deferring college for a year so you wouldn’t have to change coaches in the lead-up to Tokyo?
Yes I did, actually. It was something I really had to think long and hard about. It’s a big decision. It’s a big change. I’m lucky I have the opportunity to go to an incredible school. I know that the Stanford coach, Greg Meehan, will work really well with my coach, Mike Parratto, and they collaborate really well. I know it will be a hard adjustment, but I think I’m ready. For me mentally, I think moving on and heading off to school and getting a change of scenery and pace will be really great.
How have you been passing the time? Have you been binge watching anything?
I have two dogs, so I’ve been spending a lot of time with them. They are big stress relievers so I will just sit and pet them. I’ve been watching a lot of random TV shows. I’m not really a great binge watcher. I love “Stranger Things,” and I’ll binge that, but you can only do that so many times before you get sick of it. I typically just watch whatever is on TV.
I’ve been catching up on sleep and trying to get better at things that I didn’t necessarily have time for when I was busier. For example, I was terrible at stretching after workouts. My flexibility was really bad. It didn’t hurt my swimming, but I don’t think it helped it. I’ve been focusing on stretching and staying loose more. I haven’t really found any super solid hobbies. I color here and there. I’m still trying to figure out how to fill space.