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Hilary Knight's Olympic journey as told by her mom

Cynthia Knight says her daughter's journey from playing peewee hockey on boys teams to competing for Olympic gold has made her a perfect ambassador for women in a male-dominated sport.

KETCHUM - Team USA hockey star Hilary Knight wasn't born with a stick in her hands. In fact, she was initially destined to take up a different winter sport.

The skiing roots run deep in the Knight family. Hilary's cousin, Chip Knight, is a three-time Olympian in Alpine racing.

"Both my husband and I were from the East Coast and grew up skiing, and our children were going to learn to ski also," said Hilary's mom, Cynthia Knight.

But when her husband's job took the family to a the Midwest, Cynthia was forced to find another pastime for her kids.

"What do you do when you don’t have mountains around? So a friend suggested that she play hockey," she remembered.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

"So we put her in hockey and she just took to the ice," Cynthia said. "She was always smiling."

The oldest of four children, and the only girl in the family, Hilary grew up playing on boys hockey teams.

"There were a lot of families of boys that did not appreciate a girl taking their son’s spot on a team," Cynthia said.

A head taller than many of the boys she played against, Hilary was often targeted.

"Some boys would start punching her in front of the net," Cynthia remembered. "But she held her own."

Despite the challenges, Hilary's love for the game of hockey never faltered.

The Knight family eventually relocated to Sun Valley, and Hilary now claims the famed winter mecca as her hometown.

RELATED: Sun Valley's 'Olympic Ladies' project aims to inspire next generation of Olympians

Fast-forward to 2018 and Hilary is chasing her third-straight Olympic medal.

"What an exciting opportunity to be an Olympian," Cynthia said. "To represent your country is fantastic, and also it’s the journey, you’ve sacrificed so much to get there and for women this is the pinnacle of their career."

RELATED: USA beats Finland 3-1; Sun Valley's Knight helps lead comeback

The U.S. women's hockey team took home a silver medal in Vancouver and again in Sochi, after a heartbreaking overtime loss to rival Canada.

But for Hilary, South Korea is about much more than that elusive gold medal.

It's also an opportunity to continue shining a spotlight on gender equality in the sport she loves.

"How she’s been able to not just be ho-hum, part of the process, but really push it and really make it better for the next generation of women skaters, because a lot of people could just ride along and do nothing," Cynthia said. "And that’s what I’m proud about."

ESPN's Jemele Hill (R) moderates a panel that includes U.S. skier Julia Mancuso, U.S. Hockey player Hilary Knight, and WNBA player Sue Bird (from L to R) during the espnW Summit 2015 in Dana Point, California. (Photo by Mpu Dinani/Getty Images)

The Knight family will all be in South Korea to support Hilary and Team USA, no matter the outcome.

"You have to go and embrace the experience and really have fun and take in all you can," Cynthia said. "It’s just being there, seeing her face and giving her a hug. Just being present and supportive."

While her daughter competes on the biggest stage, Cynthia continues her support of young athletes as the development director for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. She hopes her work will help to cultivate the next generation of Olympians in Idaho.

Learn more about the athletes we'll be following in KTVB's Road to South Korea special.

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