'She had it in her heart since Day 1,' Reina Smith said of her daughter, Jessica Smith, top, drive and enthusiam for sports. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images)
Reina Smith is not one to brag.
But she’s absolutely proud of daughter, Jessica Smith, a Cabrini High graduate from Melvindale who has qualified for three short track speedskating events for the Sochi Games.
Smith, a former world class inline speedskater who switched to ice a decade ago, will compete in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500.
“I feel very good about her,” said Reina, who along with husband, Rick, and 16-year-old son, Travis, will travel to Russia to watch Jessica compete today (5:30 a.m. EST). “She’s definitely a contender, she’s definitely strong enough, she’s fast enough, she’s smart, but so is everyone who is going to be there.
“I say they have to be lucky. A lot of luck is going to be taking part now. I hope she got her bad luck out of the way.”
It has been a long four years for Jessica Smith since the Vancouver Games, when she was an alternate on Team USA.
Since then, she stepped back, re-evaluated her career and made some changes.
“The bottom line is she trained as hard before as after,” Reina Smith said. “Her training and focus never changed. She just needed more technique. … They worked on it a ton. That made a change for her. That made a difference.”
Smith, with the help of coach Jae Su Chun, made those improvements.
Chun, however, will not be at the Games. He is serving a two-year suspension through October for alleged emotional and verbal abuse of national team members as well as ordering the tampering of skates of a Canadian skater. Chun has denied the allegations.
Still, Smith is standing by Chun for his direction.
“He’s helped my dreams come true,” Smith said in an interview. “’He’s stuck by me this whole time, just like I’ve stuck by him this entire time. It’s obviously paid off. I won every distance with his help and I wouldn’t be skating at the level I’m skating without his help.”
She also never would have reached this level without the support of her parents.
But, Reina Smith said she and Rick can’t claim anything other than being facilitators in their daughter’s Olympic pursuit.
“She had it in her heart since Day 1,” Reina Smith said. “I never had to tell her to go to practice. I wish I could say it was me who led to her success, but she wanted to go, and we took her. We made sure she got there.
“When she was little, she barely went to pajama parties. But it was her choice. We’d say, ‘Do you want to go (to the party) or do you want to go to practice?’ We let her be a kid, but we let her made choices. She’s never said, ‘Oh, I wish I could have done this.’ To this day she’s never had a regret.”
Reina Smith certainly will have more to talk about when she sees her daughter participate in the Games in person. Jessica Smith’s first race is the 500-meter heats Feb. 10.
“This still hasn’t sunk in,” Reina said. “I’m shocked and overwhelmed that my daughter’s an Olympian.”