Kieran Smith, a Ridgefield High School graduate three years ago, had already established himself as the state’s greatest high school distance freestyle swimmer ever.
And then, suffice it to say, Smith went quite a bit better last month and secured his status as being among the best middle distance freestyle swimmers in the world.
That fact was confirmed July 25 when Smith earned the bronze medal in the men’s 400-meter freestyle at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, 66 days after he celebrated his 21st birthday on May 20.
Smith placed third with a time of 3 minutes, 43.94 seconds to finish just 0.58 of a second behind gold medalist Ahmed Hafnaoui (3:43.36) of Tunisia and 0.42 of a of a second behind silver medalist Jack McLoughlin (3:43.52) of Australia.
Smith’s time of 3:43.94 was his fastest ever as he lowered his previous personal-best time by nearly a full second from his time of 3:44.86 when he won the 400 freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska in the middle of June. Smith swept the 200 and 400 freestyle events at the U.S. Olympic Trials, having won the 200 free in 1:45.29.
Smith raced in three events at the Olympics.
He placed sixth in the 200-meter freestyle with a 1:45.12 on July 27 as the only American in the final. Tom Dean of Great Britain won the gold medal with a 1:44.22. Smith achieved his personal-best time of 1:45.07 in his July 26 semifinal heat.
Smith swam the anchor leg on the United States 4×200 freestyle relay team which placed fourth with a 7:02.43. Dean anchored Great Britain to the gold medal (6:58.58).
Smith earned his bronze medal in the 400 freestyle 33 years after another Ridgefield High School swimming star, Janel Jorgensen, earned a silver medal as the butterfly specialist on the U.S. women’s 400 medley relay team at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
Jorgensen was just 17 years old during that summer of ’88 after her junior year at Ridgefield High. Jorgensen went on to have a superb career at Stanford University.
Smith set plenty of FCIAC and state records in high school. He still owns a pair of state records in the 200-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle events which he set during his senior year at the 2018 Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Boys Swimming and Diving State Open Championships when he broke his own previous records which he set earlier that season.
Smith’s winning time of 1:34.89 in the 200 free broke the record of 1:35.18 and he won the 500 free in 4:18.83 to break his previous record of 4:21.37.
The 6-foot-5 Smith will next be entering the homestretch of a fabulous career as a senior at the University of Florida.
Smith was a champion in the 200 free and runner-up in the 500 free at the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in late March. He won the 200 free in 1:30.10 to beat runner-up Drew Kibler (1:30.39) of Texas and Smith’s 500 freestyle time of 4:08.07 was just a scant 0.10 second behind winner Jake Magahey (4:07.97) of Georgia.
Smith is a 21-time All-American who has been selected the Swimmer of the Meet at the SEC Championships in each of the previous two years. He has also been on the SEC Academic Honor Roll teams in all his first three years from 2019-21.
And with last month’s latest achievement, he made his own contribution toward helping the United States finish first in total medals and at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
The U.S. finished first with 39 gold medals and collected 41 silver medals and 33 bronze medals for a total of 113. China was second in total medals (88) and gold medals (38).
As usual, the United States was dominant in swimming. The U.S. swimmers had 30 total medals, 10 more than runner-up Australia. The U.S. had 11 gold medals, 10 silver and nine bronze while Australia’s nine gold medals were the second most.