THE Olympics came to an end for North Vancouver runner Jessica Smith on Thursday but it feels as if the budding star's career as an elite racer is just getting started.
Running in her first Olympic Games, the 22-year-old Argyle secondary grad finished second in her opening heat in the women's 800 metres on Wednesday, advancing to Thursdays semifinals by posting a time of 2: 07.75 in a relatively slow heat.
The pace quickened considerably in the semifinals and Smith pushed hard to qualify for the final, racing with the leaders for much of the two laps, but ran out of gas in the final sprint to the finish, ending up in seventh place with a time of 2: 01.90.
After the race Smith said she knew the pace would be fast and she gave her all in trying to keep up with some of the world's best in racing for a spot in the Olympic final.
"The semifinal is a round where you really can't leave anything out there at all," Smith told CTV in a live, trackside interview after the race. "After watching the first two (semifinal) races before me I knew that a lot of girls were going for time but my legs just didn't have it in the last 300."
Smith, who started racing with the North Shore's NorWesters Track and Field Club and honed her skills the last five years at Simon Fraser University, only qualified for the Games a little more than a month ago when she finished third at the Canadian trials in Calgary. In June she met the elusive Olympic A standard qualification time in winning the Harry Jerome Classic in a time of 1: 59.86 to become just the fourth Canadian woman to run an 800-m race in less than two minutes.
In Thursday's Olympic semifinal she was a little off her personal best but said she was happy with the way she raced and competed.
"Qualifying for the semifinal was a huge accomplishment, just to qualify for the Olympics was a dream come true but to reach the semifinals was the cherry on top," Smith said. "Unfortunately I couldn't stay up there, but I definitely have no regrets."
Smith said she'll look to build on her Olympic experience.
"I definitely won't forget it," she said. "I'm going to take this whole process and make sure that I go over it and I don't forget the little details and definitely build on what I've done here."
The whole experience, in fact, was unforgettable.
"It was unbelievable to be able to race here, an incredible experience," she said. "I really can't thank everyone enough for all the support - from across the country to my hometown in North Vancouver."
Smith was the only Canadian to advance to the semifinals of the women's 800 m.