Hitting new heights is just part of the routine for Shasta Trampoline’s Samantha Smith.
The New West physiotherapist was at the top of her game earlier this month, capturing the gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Peru.
It followed another on-spot performance in late July when Smith nailed down her first senior individual Canadian women’s title in her hometown of Toronto.
She couldn’t have asked for a better summer.
“I was feeling really good going in (to the Pan Ams),” the 26-year-old said. “The performance at nationals really helped and overall I’ve just been training really hard.”
What also helped was how she was able to block out the distractions, making an adjustment and focusing on what she had done hundreds of times before.
“Being able to control your thoughts about your surroundings is really important,” said Smith. “So, if the equipment is different or the environment, being able to rely on the fact that you’ve trained hard and you can do your routine is very important.
“We were using equipment (in Peru) that most of the competitors hadn’t seen before. When I started my routine I couldn’t get exactly where I wanted to be on the trampoline. I just stopped (bouncing), caught my breath and tried again. I was just confident that I could do my routine and that was really helpful.”
She put together a strong performance to shoot up the charts, standing well ahead of her rivals after her final run. Having posted the fourth-best score in qualifying for the final, there was some tense moments as Smith had to wait to see if her score would be trumped by the following three athletes.
It was exciting and nervewracking at the same time.
“It was a really good score for me, but there were some strong competitors going after me so it was a little bit of a waiting game. I was really excited when the last competitor went and I saw that I had the highest score,” she said.
Getting a chance to improve on her qualifying score was another plus.
“I was really happy that I made the finals. I had a little bit of a shaky first round, and it’s a fresh-start final so I was really happy I had the opportunity to do a better routine and show everybody what I could do.”
If it was a spin-off from the national win, she’ll take it. Collecting the Canadian title was a full-circle kind of achievement, won where her gymnastics dreams had all begun nearly 20 years ago, with her family in the crowd.
“My only other national title was at junior and my parents were able to watch that one as well because it was in Ontario, I think maybe I need to start dragging them to all of my competitions with me,” she said with a laugh. “They don’t get a chance to watch very often so it’s really special when they can.”
Since relocating to B.C. and the Lower Mainland, Smith has become part of the New West-based Shasta Club family, and gives a lot of credit to coach Curt DeWolff.
“(DeWolff) has really supported and encouraged me. He also designed a new routine with me. We debuted it at provincials and it went really well. Following that test run, I was excited to compete that routine at nationals, and I am really happy with how it went.”
Smith has circled the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on her calendar, aiming to earn one of a possible two Canadian women positions. The hoops to nail that down include trips to Russia and Spain over the next two months. Having recently graduated from the University of B.C.-Okanagan, Smith said while the route to qualifying for the Olympics has been opened up, it still has many levels of difficulty attached.
But her latest achievements, bolstered by confidence in her abilities, puts her on a good footing.
“I have had a lot of international experience, and I am hoping that th combination of experience and confidence from the last few meets will help me go out there and show my best performances,” she said.
One of her jobs is at Royal City Health and Manual Therapy, where not only does she treat the aches and ailments of clients, she gets treatment. Her co-workers have become an important part of her support system.
“All the clinics I work at have been very supportive of the travelling and competing I’m doing. One of the clinics is a sports clinic, which is really helpful so I have a personal understanding of the intricacies of being an athlete. At the sports clinic my boss is a strength and conditioning coach who trains me, and my colleague is a physio who treats me, so I’m well taken care of.
“Now I treat people and I tell them not to do all the things I did in school. ‘Don’t sit for hours on end, watch your posture,’” she said.
The World Cup competitions in Russia this month, and Spain next, are the first two opportunities before the World championships later this year.
Having served as an alternate at the 2012 London Games, and missed out on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Smith has found that her new approach has extended her competitive window.
“My original plan was to go to the Olympics in 2016 and then retire. But I didn’t make it and I also decided I didn’t want to retire. I really liked training over the last couple of years,” she said.
“I really love my sport. Trampoline is so much fun. After the 2016 season, which was really all about outcomes, I got to just enjoy the training for the sake of getting better. Now that it’s time for Olympic qualifications again I’m really serious about qualifying but I’m really enjoying the process of trying to be as good as I can."