Dec. 8, 2016
WINDSOR, Ontario—Virginia senior swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Leah Smith won the 800-meter freestyle at the 2016 FINA Short Course World Championships Thursday night (Dec. 8) at the Family Aquatic Complex in Windsor, Ontario.
Smith (Pittsburgh, Pa.) won the 800m free in a time of 8:10.17. The Americans went 1-2 as Ashley Twichell touched second to Smith in a time of 8:11.95, while Kiah Melverton of Australia was third in 8:16.51. Smith broke the American record on Wednesday in prelims with a time of 8:07.67. Kate Ziegler held the previous American record of 8:08.00, set in 2007.
“It feels amazing to win my first world championship, these are not easy to come by so I’m very excited about it,” said Smith. “I’m also so happy for Ashley. Before we walked out, Ashley said that we could give the U.S. the first 1-2 finish of the meet and that pumped us both up and helped us swim fast.”
It is Smith’s first individual senior international gold medal. The Cavalier senior won Olympic gold with the U.S. 4x200m free relay and bronze in the 400m free at the Rio Olympics. It is Smith’s second world championship title after earning gold with the 4x200m free relay at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. Smith also won gold with the same relay at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia.
Smith finished seventh in the 200m free on Tuesday evening in a personal-best time of 1:54.49. She will compete in the 400m free on Friday and be a part of the U.S. 4x200m free relay on Saturday.
At Virginia, Smith is a four-time NCAA Champion, winning the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle events in both 2015 and 2016. She is an 11-time All-American and 10-time ACC Champion.
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A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.
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