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Minnesota's Regan Smith sets a world record in the 100 backstroke at the U.S. Olympic trials

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Olympic flame arrives in France ahead of 2024 Paris Games 03:06

This world record was five years in the making for Regan Smith.

What an up-and-down journey it's been.

Bouncing back from a close-but-no-Olympics call in her first race, Smith set a world record in the women's 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. swimming trials on Tuesday night.

The 22-year-old Minnesota native touched in 57.13 seconds, easily beating the mark of 57.33 set a year ago by Australia's Kaylee McKeown.

Smith was just 17 years old when she first set a world record in the 100 back at the 2019 world championships. But she struggled to deal with the sudden, newfound fame, ceding dominance in the event to McKeown.

"A long time coming," Smith said. "It's about time."

There was never any doubt about Smith's talent, but a lack of confidence was almost crippling at times.

She's been working with a sports psychologist since October, which helped turn things around from mental standpoint. Her coach, Bob Bowman, best known for his work with 23-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, took care of the physical side with a grueling training regimen.

"This is incredibly rewarding," Smith said. "When I was a teenager, I had not done much. There was no pressure on me. I was always the youngest. No one expected much from me. I could go into it fearless."

US Swimming Olympic Trials
Regan Smith reacts after winning the Women's 100 backstroke finals Tuesday, June 18, 2024, at the US Swimming Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. Michael Conroy / AP

Once she tasted success, it was hard to get back on top. She made the U.S. team for the Tokyo Olympics, but finished third in the backstroke as McKeown took the gold.

"I've always had it physically, but I didn't have it mentally," Smith conceded. "I just didn't have it up here," pointing toward her head.

Showing how much her confidence has grown, Smith bounced back emphatically after getting edged for a spot on the U.S. team in the 100 butterfly, where she finished third behind Gretchen Walsh and Torri Huske.

Flipping to her back, Smith set the second world record of the trials, following Walsh's mark in the semifinals of the 100 fly.

Katharine Berkoff claimed the second expected Olympic spot for the U.S. with a time of 57.91.

Simone Manuel was the fastest qualifier in the women's 100 free preliminaries and took the second spot behind Torri Huske in the semifinals.

Manuel is coming back from a long layoff that cast doubt over whether she'd be able to qualify for Paris.

Manuel, the first Black female swimmer to capture an individual gold medal, was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome ahead of the last Olympics. She barely managed to qualify for the U.S. team, then shut down all physical activity under a doctor's care to allow her body to recover.

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