Rising fourth year Leah Smith has qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio after placing second behind world record holder Katie Ledecky in the 400-meter freestyle. Smith finished with a time of 4 minutes, 0.65 seconds, which ranks her second in the world this year.
“I mean, I saw [Ledecky’s] feet, so that was pretty cool. I’m never that close!” said Smith in an interview with NBC after her race.
She has shown incredible improvement over the last 4 years. Since the 2012 trials, Smith became the world champion in the 4×200 meter free relay and the FINA World Championships. She was also the 2015 and 2016 NCAA champion in both the 500m free and 1,500 m free both years. In an interview with Swimming World Magazine before Monday’s race, Smith talked about taking the meet as if it were just another meet. In 2012 she felt a lot of pressure so the goal this year was to relax and take it race by race, and obviously it worked.
Smith is also seeded fourth in the 200 and 800- meter freestyle and fingers are crossed for the swimmer to qualify in both events as well.
UVa has had a swimmer at each Olympic Games since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, and this year, 34 future, current, and alumni swimmers from UVA are participating in the trials.