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Visiting Estonian Athletes

Kristina and Katrin Smigun

Estonian crosscountry skier and gold medal winner at Torino Winter Olympics, 2006 Among the more illustrious Estonian athletes to compete in Alberta is Kristina Smigun. She was a winner already in 1997 at the World Junior Championships in the Nordic disciplines at Canmore where she took gold medals in the 5 km and 15 km cross-country races. The list of her World Cup, World Championships and Estonian Championships medals would take up several pages. Suffice to say that her supreme accomplishments were two gold medals at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy in the 15 km and 10 km races. This was Kristina's fourth Olympics. Her teammate Andrus Veerpalu also won a gold medal in 2006, in the 15 km race. These placed Estonia first among the individual cross-country gold winning nations and second in the overall cross-country medals count behind Sweden who had 3 golds (one individual & two team wins) plus 2 bronzes and ahead of the traditionally strong nations such as Norway and Finland. Kristina was the major reason for raising Estonia into this elevated category.

Pictured is Kristina Smigun following her gold medal performance in crosscountry skiing at the Torino Olympics, 2006 Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth; Kristina Smigun and her younger sister Katrin were born with silver skis on their feet. Their father is Anatoli Smigun, Estonia's men's champion for many years; their mother is Rutt Rehemaa-Smigun, Estonian women's champion for many years and medalist at many international competitions. The two met as teammates on the former Soviet Union national team, fell in love and married. When their daughters were pre-schoolers, the parents began to coach them. Father later became their one and only coach. Both of the young ladies clearly recognize their parents' accomplishments and knowledge as inspiration for them.

Younger sister Katrin has competed in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics as well as elsewhere internationally, winning a silver medal at the Canmore World Junior Championships in 1997. Katrin attended university in the United States and has since retired from competitive skiing. Her family, including a daughter, lives in Norway. Kristina retired from competition shortly after the Torino Olympics, and lives in Estonia with her husband and young daughter.

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