Trace Cummings Smith is in Sochi to compete in the Winter Olympics, but the 21-year-old Dedham native will not be wearing red, white, and blue.
Instead, the Dartmouth College junior will dress in blue, black, and white ski gear — the colors of Estonia. With dual citizenship, Cummings Smith will be one of two alpine skiers competing for the small nation located in northeastern Europe on the Baltic Sea.
“I began racing as an American; I was born and raised in Boston, and at age 16 I decided to switch the country for which I compete to Estonia,” he said in a recent phone interview while training in Duluth, Minn.
“My parents thought that it would be a really good way to both provide me opportunity as far as the races I could compete in, but also from a personal perspective, [with] my family having Estonian roots.”
Warren Cummings Smith, who friends and family call “Trace” due to the “III” that accompanies his legal name, was born and raised in Massachusetts and began skiing at a young age.
“I took my first ski lessons at Nashoba Valley when I was
4 years old, and from there I skied recreationally with my father,” he said.
“I started ski racing [at] 9 years old; age 14 was really when I made the move toward ski racing as my No. 1 focus athletically.”
Cummings Smith and his siblings became dual citizens of the United States Estonia at a young age.
“My mother is still in Estonia, and I have an Estonian passport, so when my kids were 10, I thought that they should get Estonian passports, too,” said Tina Smith, his mother.
“It not only connects him with his culture, but also allows him to get into bigger races.”
“It was definitely early on,” he added, “before it was even a question of ski racing; it didn’t come down to that at all.”
After excelling at Burke Mountain Academy, the ski school that has also produced US Olympians Mikaela Shiffrin and Nolan Kasper, a fellow Dartmouth student, Smith moved on to Hanover, N.H., where he made an immediate impact with the Big Green ski team.
“He had a fantastic first year; he was our top point scorer all year, so he was a great addition to the team and a great surprise,” said Peter Dodge, the men’s alpine coach at Dartmouth.
“He maintained his level his sophomore year from his great freshman year and was a solid carnival contributor, too, and just missed qualifying for the NCAA team last year.
“He’s an enthusiastic guy, and he’s incredibly hard-working. He’s a great kid to coach; he wants to do well. He really listens, and I think that’s really helped him make the big gains that he did and put him in a position for this. We’re very excited to have him race in the Olympics and have him represent Dartmouth and Estonia.”
Cummings Smith earned his spot on the Estonian team with a first-place finish at an FIS race in Sweden in November.
He is one of 12 Olympians with ties to Dartmouth, including Hannah Kearney, the defending gold medalist in freestyle mogul skiing.
Competing for the country of his ancestors has allowed Cummings Smith to compete at the highest level early on in his skiing career, but he said the experience he has received is much greater than just improved race times.
“It’s allowed me to get the opportunity to get really close to other members of the Estonian ski team,” he said.
“It’s been really cool to hear those firsthand accounts of the history of the country and what it was like there, especially during the Soviet years, and the skiing has just afforded me that opportunity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Tina Smith said she is very proud that her son’s hard work had paid off.
“To be in the place where he is right now and in the Olympics; this isn’t like Wimbledon or the Australian Open where it’s put on every year. To peak at this time is a very special thing.”
“The Olympics, for anybody the first time through, is a real eye-opener,” Dodge said.
“If he gets the chance to compete at the Olympics in four years [in South Korea], which would put him in his prime, he would have this experience under his belt and he could go in there with a lot more confidence, a lot more experience, and have a chance to do pretty well.”
“I see it as a great opportunity, both to get in there and achieve my best possible result, but also as a platform off of which I would be able to gain experience from this event,” Cummings Smith said.
“I’m hoping that it will be a good place to move forward from and come back in four years time, be a veteran, and have a lot more of a solid platform and more years of training under my belt, so I’ll be ready to be competitive for a medal.”Jeff Pini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.