Kieran Smith is first Gator to qualify for U.S. Olympic Swim Team

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Florida's Kieran Smith celebrates Sunday after winning the Men's 400 Freestyle during wave 2 of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha, Neb.

OMAHA, Neb. — Florida's Kieran Smith qualified for the Summer Olympics by winning the 400 freestyle Sunday night at the U.S. swimming trials.

Smith won in 3:44.86 but knows he'll need to go even faster to have a shot at a medal — especially against a powerful Australian squad.

He shaved nearly 3 seconds off his previous personal best in the 400 freestyle to claim his spot for Tokyo.

"I just had to tell myself that I belong here and I do," Smith said. "I think that 3:44.00 is pretty good for now, but I know I still need to do a bit more work and I know I can give more in the back half of the 400 free. For tomorrow, I feel confident and am ready for the 200 free."

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Smith's Olympic debut will also mark the first time he's on the national team. The first two finishers at each event qualifying for the Summer Games. Behind Smith was Florida's Trey Freeman as he finished in sixth place and Mitch D'Arrigo in seventh.

Bobby Finke started off the first night of finals at the Olympic Trials with a fourth-place finish in the 400 IM. Finke shaved off two seconds of his prelims time as he went a blistering 4:11.44.

In the 100 fly semi's Natalie Hinds, a former UF standout, finished fifth in the first semi's heat of the 100 fly and 10th overall.

In the 100 fly prelims, UF's Talia Bates was just .04 second off of her entry time with a 1:00.11 sixth place finish in heat three to place 38th overall.

The eight-day meet began Sunday in a temporary pool inside CHI Health Center in downtown Omaha, the fourth time the U.S. team has been selected in Nebraska.

The pandemic forced several changes at trials, including reducing arena capacity to half of its usual 17,560. Cardboard cutouts mix with fans in the seats. The trials were split into two different meets, with the slowest swimmers competing a week earlier to avoid overcrowding. Those who finished first or second advanced to this week’s competition, which NBC will air every night in primetime.

Kieran Smith participates in the Men's 400 Freestyle during wave 2 of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)