Her social bubble has shrunk, contracting to only a handful of people. Regan Smith's schedule has shifted, too, as she tries to train when few others are in the pool at Apple Valley's Bluewater Aquatic Center.
The Lakeville swimmer has been guarding against COVID-19 since it arrived, but she's doubled down on those efforts in recent weeks. The Olympic trials are only six months away, and the race toward the Tokyo Summer Games accelerates this weekend, when she will compete in a major meet in Texas.
"Now more than ever, I'm really concerned about getting COVID," said Smith, the world record holder in the 100- and 200-meter backstrokes. "If I get it, or even if someone I'm in contact with gets it, I'm out of the water for 10 to 14 days. It's stressful. I've been thinking about that constantly."
The Olympics were delayed for a year because of the coronavirus, putting Smith and all prospective Olympians into a holding pattern. Even now, it is not certain the Games will begin as scheduled on July 23.
There has been a sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in Japan, prompting the government last week to declare a state of emergency for the Tokyo area. The country's borders are closed to international travelers, and Kyodo News has reported that vaccination will not begin until March at the earliest. The International Olympic Committee and local organizers have said the Games cannot be postponed again, raising the possibility they could be canceled.
The event calendar leading to the Olympic trials also remains in flux. The Pro Swim Series, a major springboard toward the Olympics, starts Thursday in San Antonio and Richmond, Va., but dates and sites for other stops have not been announced.
Smith plans to compete in the 100 and 200 back in San Antonio, as well as the 100 and 200 butterfly and the 200 freestyle. She has raced in only one official meet since March, the U.S. Open last November. At that meet, she felt rusty and nervous in the backstroke, and Smith said she was "pretty disappointed'' in those performances.
After a mental adjustment and an excellent training block, she is hoping to see big improvements this weekend.
"It's going to be a good gauge for me," said Smith, 18. "At the U.S. Open, I was honestly kind of intimidated. It had been awhile since I'd competed, and all summer, I wasn't training as hard as I had been. I was scared to compete instead of excited, and I think that showed in some of my events.
"I'm never going to get the results I want if that's my attitude. So my goal for this meet is to be genuinely excited and have fun. I've trained super hard, and I feel like I'm back to where I was before."
Smith deferred her college career at Stanford because of the pandemic, opting to continue training in Minnesota through this summer. She missed some time in the water last spring during COVID-related shutdowns of public pools and youth sports. But she was able to keep training through the most recent youth-sports pause — which sidelined her younger teammates for several weeks — because she graduated from high school last June.
With those teammates now back in the pool, Smith is scheduling her practices during less crowded times. She also has closed her social circle to everyone except her immediate family, along with her boyfriend and his family.
Her usual training trips to Florida remain on hold as well. Smith's only long-course training comes during twice-weekly visits to a 50-meter pool in Brooklyn Center, a routine that also has been interrupted by COVID-19 shutdowns.
"I had a 10-person bubble with friends all summer, but I've gotten very cautious," she said. "We're six months out from the trials. This is it. You can't afford to sit out if something goes wrong."
Smith is trying not to worry about what other swimmers are doing, or about what is happening in Japan, where public sentiment is turning against the Olympics. In two recent polls taken by Japanese media, more than 80% of respondents said they want the Olympics postponed or canceled or do not expect them to happen.
Smith ended 2020 ranked second in the world in the 100 and 200 back, fifth in the 200 butterfly and seventh in the 100 fly. The U.S. has a wealth of talent in the women's backstroke events, and Smith will face all of the top competitors in San Antonio, including Isabelle Stadden of Blaine.
Following this weekend's meet, she isn't sure what will happen next. Like everyone else trying to plan for the Olympics, all Smith can do is take things as they come.
"Things are messy right now, and it's stressful," she said. "I'm just trying my best to keep my head down and control what I can control."