Authors: Jaclyn Masci & Ruth Hayes
In the spirit of the Olympics, we wanted to highlight the skiers from our area who have competed in past Olympics. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ruth Hayes recently about these former Olympians. Ruth deserves full credit for the information presented here. She shared incredible stories, some dating back to when these Olympians were mere middle school students. We hope you enjoy this read and come out of it with maybe a touch more pride for our local xc ski community. Many great skiers have come out of our community in years past and, with continued support of the sport, there will be more in the years to come.
Olympic Year: 1984
Bruce Likly from Fairport, NY became the first local skier to compete in the Olympics. He competed in Nordic Skiing in the 1984 Games in Sarajevo. Bruce was actually a downhill skier but the famous Roger Weston caught him and converted him to Nordic. Ruth explained that it was Bruce who really gave our local skiers an idea of what was possible. Before Bruce, the best skiers would make plans for college skiing at best, but now they could dream and work towards achieving an even higher level of skiing.
Joan Smith (married name Miller)
Olympic Years: 1992 & 1994
Ruth gave me quite the back story on Joan (or as she called her, “Joanie”). Joan’s nordic ski experience all started when Ruth Hayes took busloads of kids to Mendon Ponds Park. At the time, Monroe County hosted weekend races at the park, and Ruth noted there was one little girl who took a particular interest in these races (that would be Joan). So, Ruth brought her along to all the races. By 8th grade Joan was already skiing alongside the high school students and had developed an interest in Biathlon. Ruth took her to Syracuse for a training course (what Ruth reports must have been pretty boring for an 8th grader). By her junior year in high school, Joan was the top biathlete in the country. Joan would have qualified for the 1988 Olympic Games; however, women were not included in Olympic Biathlon until 1992. Joan competed in both the 1992 Albertville Games and the 1994 Lillehammer Games. The 1992 Games were a party from the sound of it, with Joan’s entire family joining her in France for the competition and the entire town celebrating upon her return.
Laurie Grover (married name Tavares)
Olympic Year: 1994
Home Town: Penfield
Laurie Grover was the third local Olympian from our area. She competed in Biathlon in the 1994 Lillehammer Games, alongside Joan. A fun fact is that Laurie and Joan actually raced together in the Section V relay at State Championships a few years prior, so our local fans had two of our best relay racers to root for in the ’94 Olympics!
A fourth Olympian with a local collection is Duncan Douglas. Although he was not born or raised locally, he married Kim Bauer, an HFL Nordic racer, whom he met at St. Lawrence. Duncan competed in the 1992 and 1994 Games in Biathlon. He and Kim now live in Lake Placid.
Our area has also produced an Olympic Biathlon coach, Allan Miller. Allan graduated from Fairport (where he skied with Bruce Likly) and coached in the 1998 Games. He also married Joan Smith (mentioned above) in 1998. In fact, Joan Smith had been the top US biathlete in the 1998 World Cups in Europe all winter, but when returning for the US team trials, she had the flu and a fever and missed qualifying for the Olympics by a mere 3 seconds in the last race. So, she had to stay home while Allan headed to Japan to coach in the 1998 Games. In 2002, both Allan and Joan were in charge of the Biathlon section of the Salt Lake City Games.
Here we have highlighted our former Olympians, but I would be remiss if I did not give a nod to all of the incredible skiers who have competed, coached, or served as wax technicians both across the U.S. and abroad – even if they did not make it to the Olympic Games. Great work to all of those in our local RXCSF community – from the casual weekend backcountry skier to the coaches and Varsity skiers who represent us at State championships and beyond. All of you play a critical role and keeping our community strong and growing. Thank you!