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Swimming Canada – WINNIPEG – Kierra Smith of Kelowna, B.C., and Jeremy Bagshaw of Victoria put their university studies aside for this season in order to improve their chances of competing at their first Olympic Games in Rio this summer.

 
Both swimmers feel it’s a worthwhile sacrifice and that was apparent in their respective victories on Thursday to open the Speedo Western Canadian Open swimming championships at the Pan Am Pool.
 
In the women’s 200-m breaststroke, Smith took the gold medal in two minutes and 26.15 seconds. She finished ahead of 17-year-old Kelsey Wog of Winnipeg at 2:27.94 and Rachel Nicol of Lethbridge, Alta., third in 2:28.44.
 
“I feel I have a lot more energy for swimming this year because I don’t have to worry about my studies,” said Smith, a Pan Am Games champion and world championship finalist in the event in 2015. “My schedule is less hectic which allows me to recover faster and that helps a lot. You don’t know how hard the life of a student-athlete is until you’re not one.”
 
Smith is coming off a battle with the flu which didn’t keep her out of the pool but affected her training.
 
“I felt good about my swim tonight,” she said. “I really wanted to go a 2:25 and just missed that. My coach was upset with my finish because I glided into the wall for so long. He felt I could have fit in another two strokes.”
 
In the men’s 200-m freestyle, Bagshaw clocked his best time while in training finishing in 1:50.07. Chad Bobrosky of Calgary was second in 1:51.59 and Peter Brothers of Victoria third in 1:53.28.
 
“There were a lot of positives in that race,” said Bagshaw. “I felt the pacing was really good. There’s still some small things to work out with turns and underwater. Still I kept my race in control. It’s a good sign for trials.”
 
The Swimming Canada’s Olympic Trials are April 5-10 in Toronto.
 
“It’s good to only be focusing on swimming right now,” said Bagshaw, also a member of the Pan Am Games and world championship teams last season. “I’m coming off the best block of training I’ve ever had.”
 
The competition also features youth races for women 15 and under and boys 16 and under.  Rebecca Smith of Red Deer, Alta., posted two wins on Thursday in the 200-m freestyle and 100-m backstroke.
 
Competition continues through to Sunday.
 
 
By Louis Daignault for Swimming Canada