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UNH Wildcat travels to Russia for 2014 Winter Olympics

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 00:02

University of New Hampshire alumna Leanne Smith is representing the U.S. in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Smith is hoping to compete in the downhill and super giant (Super-G) slalom skiing events at this year’s games, but the exact events she will be competing in have not been released. 

Smith attended UNH for one year and was a member of the women’s ski team. Being a member of that team taught her important lessons that she still remembers today. 

“UNH helped my skiing career by teaching me about selfless sports,” Smith said. “Skiing is an individual sport, but a strong team is what develops each athlete’s potential. While on the UNH ski team I would be just excited for someone else’s triumph as any of my own, and I think that that has definitely helped me along my journey on the World Cup circuit.”

Although Smith was only at UNH for a year, she gained lifetime knowledge that she has carried with her all the way to the Olympics, but her beginnings in this snowy sport started long before she was a student at UNH. 

Smith gained her familiarity of the slopes at Mount Cranmore, in North Conway, N.H. She was on skis at the early age of five years old. Her family, being big on skiing, guided her onto her path. Smith’s parents got her sister into skiing and she followed her.

At the age of 26, Smith has collected numerous awards in her 21 years of skiing. Smith was the 2006 Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) Female Rookie Skier of the year and an All-East First Team selection as a freshman alpine skier at UNH. She helped UNH to ninth place at the 2006 NCAA Ski Championship with an 11th place finish in the giant slalom. 

In her year at UNH, Smith won the giant slalom event at the Dartmouth Winter Carnival and had seven other top-10 finishes, including fourth place in the giant slalom and sixth in the slalom at the EISA Championship. Smith was the top Wildcat in both EISA races and she was just a freshman. Following the 2006 season, Smith left UNH to train with the U.S. Ski Team Development Group. 

This is her second go at representing the United States in the winter Olympics. Smith was the 2010 U.S. downhill champion and in 2011 placed 19th in the Super-G World Championships.

“Throughout my ski racing career there have been many moments that I have been proud of,” Smith said. “The most recent, I would say, would have to be standing on the podium for the first time last year in Val D’Isere, France. To finally be at the top and reflect on your long career, doing something that you love is truly indescribable and such a happy moment for me.”

Smith is the eighth UNH skier to become an Olympian – Ed Blood was the first to achieve that accomplishment in 1932 – and being able to represent the United States is something that Smith will never take for granted. 

“I am definitely psyched for the upcoming Olympic Games,” Smith said. “Everyone who has competed in the Olympics knows the special feeling that one gets when you are representing your country competing as one of the elite in your sport.”

As for the best advice this Olympian Wildcat has received and wants to share with the rest of the wildcats, “work hard and love what you do.” 

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