Grace Smith loves to go cross-country skiing with her mother. She’s the woman who first introduced Grace -- now a top Nordic skier at Mount Greylock -- to the sport at a young age, when they would just go on short runs around the house.
"She gives me really great advice on technique ... and strategies [before races], and staying calm," Grace said of her mother, Brenda.
"She’s definitely played a big part."
Brenda Smith also has a skiing resume few Nordic mothers do -- one that includes Olympic competition.
The 48-year-old Smith competed in the 1992 Albertville, France, Winter Games. She skied in the 15-kilometer and 30-k events for the U.S., finishing in the top 50 in both events. Then Brenda White, she made the Albertville Games after winning an NCAA Nordic championship for the University of Vermont in 1988.
Twenty-two years removed from her Olympic experience, Smith still loves to ski, and loves to watch it on television. She’s watched time trials, qualifiers and Olympic races with her three daughters, Margo, Grace and Josie.
"I’ve loved the Winter Olympics, and I think [the Games] are fun to watch," Smith said. "It’s been 20 years, and even cross-country skiing has changed in the type of races they do."
Smith did a lot of racing as a collegian and amateur. She raced on the World Cup circuit, and raced on courses across Europe. But nothing, to her, compared to the feeling of reaching the height of athletic competition in 1992.
The most special part for her, aside from the races themselves, was walking in the Opening Ceremonies. It meant so much to her, in fact, that she risked fatigue during the 15-k competition -- which was the day after the ceremony.
"My coaches didn’t want me to go, because they thought I’d be on my feet too much, and it would be tiring," she said. "For me, that was something I really wanted to take part in. I’m so glad that I did."
Smith doesn’t think it hurt her, either. She feels she still had a good race, and was even inspired by walking in the ceremony for her country.
She hasn’t been back to a Winter Games since Albertville -- she and her husband, Sam Jr., went to an Olympic soccer match during the 1996 Atlanta Games -- but she still loves the competition. She’ll watch from home every four years, and she’ll be watching this month as the Sochi Games catch the world’s eye.
"It brings back memories of what my experience was like there," Smith said. "I’ll be curious to hear what the athletes think of being in Russia, and what that will be like."
Brenda Smith first introduced her daughters to the sport between the ages of 3 and 4, when they’d just ski around the house. Grace has fond memories of skiing in the Bill Koch League at Prospect Mountain, Vt.
It’s where she first learned to love Nordic skiing. Once Grace reached middle school, she was all-in.
"It’s a great team up there [at Mount Greylock], too," she said. "Our team is so united. We all work hard together in practices, but we’re bonded together."
Despite her mother’s Olympic background, Grace Smith said she’s never felt any pressure to succeed. Her parents are at her races as supporters, wanting her and Margo to do well but also wanting them to enjoy what they’re doing.
"We tell them there’s lots of things they’re good at and would enjoy doing," Brenda said. "It’s awesome, as a parent, to see your kid doing a sport she loves so much, but it wasn’t something we pushed them into doing."
Grace has seen footage of her mother in the Olympics, and said it’s still "incredible" to remember and to see.
"I’m pretty proud to think she represented our country and skiing for the U.S.," she said.