Published February 10. 2014 4:00AM
Jamie Anderson, with beauty queen looks and an infectious smile, is about to become one of the most recognizable faces in the world.
That's what happens when you become an Olympic champion, a feat the 23-year-old accomplished early Sunday morning when she soared to Olympic gold in the women's slopestyle competition at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
But here's something you probably don't know about Anderson, who was born and raised in Lake Tahoe, Calif. - her mom, Lauren, grew up in the Oakdale section of Montville, and her grandparents - Pete and Peggy Plourde - still reside on Old Colchester Road.
"We couldn't get it live," Peggy said Sunday, "but our oldest daughter (Ann) lives in Vermont and was able to watch it on a Canadian station at 5 a.m. I was half asleep when she called, but my reaction was 'Great ... this is so wonderful.' I know it means so much to Jamie. She's put in a lot of work and really stuck to her guns."
Anderson, one of eight children, had her own cheering section in Russia that included six of her siblings and her mother, Lauren, a 1972 St. Bernard High School graduate who left Lake Tahoe last year following a divorce and now works on an alpaca farm in Hartland, Vt.
Pete Plourde, an accomplished educator, administrator and football coach for 34 years at two high schools - St. Bernard and Montville (he retired in 1993) - spoke with Lauren on Sunday afternoon.
"(Lauren) was just so excited," said Pete, now 86 and active raising and showing Labrador retrievers. "She said everyone was a little scared and nervous going into the last run, but Jamie really pulled it off. She's been the top female snowboarder in the world the last couple of years, so I'm glad she finally got the chance to compete in the Olympics."
Anderson has won multiple world championships since she was 15, but this was the first year slopestyle, her speciality, was included in the Olympic freestyle skiing program. Slopestyle courses feature rails and a variety of jumps that allow athletes to combine big air and technical tricks into each run. They are judged on execution, difficulty of their lines, acrobatic moves in the air, landings and the use of the course.
Anderson was second after the first run on Sunday, but scored 95.25 points on her final run to take the gold medal away from Finland's Enni Rukajarvi. Great Britain's Jenny Jones won the bronze.
Peggy Plourde said Jamie plans to fly to New York in the next few days, where she will likely make some national television appearances.
And for those who remember Pete Plourde during his days as a football coach and athletic director and are surprised at his family's connection to skiing, you shouldn't be.
Pete and Peggy were both raised in Vermont - Pete in Bennington and Peggy in nearby Northfield. And when Pete wasn't playing football at Bennington High (he was an all-state halfback on an undefeated team in 1946), he skied.
"I did some jumping," he added, "and had a lot of fun on the slopes as a youngster in Vermont."
Even after moving to Connecticut in 1960 when Pete became the first football coach in St. Bernard history, Peggy said the family used to take trips north during the winter.
"That's how Lauren learned to ski," Peggy said. "We'd take her to courses in Northfield, Stowe and Bennington and a few smaller places outside Bennington."
Lauren took a trip west with a friend after graduating from Central Connecticut in 1976. That's where she met Joey Anderson and, after they married, relocated to South Lake Tahoe, where Lauren homeschooled her children.
"They would go up to the slopes every day," Pete said. "They would be on the snowboard all day long, then come home and do school lessons in the evening."
Added Peggy, "I don't know how Lauren did it, but she did, and when she would bring the kids east to compete in places like New Hampshire and Maine, we would always find ways to meet up with them."
The Plourdes aren't sure when they'll get to see their granddaughter's gold medal, but were looking forward to watching the medal ceremony on television Sunday night.
"It's going to be a terrific moment for us," Pete said.