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Smith Awarded US Nordic Olympic Women Gold Rush Award

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
May, 2 2024
sammy smith
Sammy Smith competes at the Stifel Loppet Cup in Minneapolis, Minnesota during the 2023-24 season. (NordicFocus)

In recognition of her outstanding performance and versatility, Sammy Smith of the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team has been awarded the US Nordic Olympic Women (US NOW) Gold Rush Award. The Gold Rush Award is an annual award that celebrates exceptional achievements and versatility among cross country athletes and is awarded to a World Cup woman athlete who demonstrates outstanding qualities of grit and grace throughout the year.

The accolade celebrates Smith's exceptional achievements, highlighting her as a standout athlete of the season. Previous winners include Smith's teammates Novie McCabe, Julia Kern, Rosie Brennan and Jessie Diggins, who have demonstrated exemplary performance and dedication to their sport.

"The award is not meant to recognize what happens on the race course directly," said Alison Owen-Bradley, the founder of the Gold Rush award and a pioneer of elite level women's cross country skiing in the U.S. said in an interview with FasterSkier. "Rather, the recipient is selected for the award by exemplifying and showing grit and the grace that it takes to be successful. It's what happened behind the scenes to get the result, not the result itself."

Smith has firmly established herself as a regular contender on the World Cup circuit. Notable accomplishments include securing a silver medal at the World Junior Championships in Planica, Slovenia the 2023-24 season and eight top 30 finishes on the World Cup stage. In Smith's first World Cup sprint, she made it to the heats, a feat rarely achieved by athletes so young on the circuit. From there, her results kept getting better, marking her as one of the team's top sprinters. While Smith gives it her all out on the snow, she is constantly striving to be better and brings those with her in the process. Using her grit to turn her frustration into a learning opportunity is one of Smith's many strengths. 

"She is a teammate we knew we could always count on," said Kern, a past-recipient of the award and a current teammate of Smith. "Her grit, grace and poise inspire us to believe we can chase after multiple dreams and always be present for the team."

Smith's ability to navigate challenges with composure and determination has been commendable. Smith is a once-in-a-generation athlete. Outside of skiing, she is an elite soccer player who will begin her college career this fall at Stanford University. In high school, Smith represented the U.S. at the Under-17 Women's World Cup as a member of the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Women's National Team and then competed with the U20 Women's U.S. National Soccer team. She took home Idaho Soccer Player of the Year in 2022-23, Idaho Girls Cross Country Player of the Year and Idaho Girls Track and Field Player of the Year in 2020-21. Alongside her sisters, she is also a founder of GO BIG Inc., a nonprofit that provides resources and opportunities for underprivileged youth. 

"I’m so grateful to have received the Gold Rush award," said Smith. "It was such a privilege to get to compete on the World Cup circuit this season and to really get to know the other athletes. It truly is the most fun, inspiring and humble group of people I have ever been around, and I hope to have many more seasons competing with them!"

Balancing commitments between skiing, soccer and academic pursuits, she has demonstrated a remarkable capacity for time management and dedication, but beyond her achievements, Smith has proven herself to be a valuable team player, offering support and encouragement to her teammates at every turn. 

"Sammy handled the pressure of racing on the highest cross country ski level, balancing school and soccer, traveling to a new country every week, all while being incredibly thoughtful and a present teammate," said Kern. "She was always the first one to offer help to anyone needing an extra hand, join for a team jog or try out group tactics with teammates during race preparation. On the tough days, Sammy brought her positive energy to lift up the spirits and introduced soccer juggling circles to change up the monotony of life on the road for the team." 

In recognition of Sammy's exemplary performance and dedication to her sport, she is a deserving recipient of the US Nordic Olympic Women Gold Rush Award. Congratulations, Sammy!