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Kuhn makes transition to coaching ranks

Cross-country skier Stefan Kuhn wasted no time making the transition from race course to work force, as the former Olympian has been hired to help coach the Alberta World Cup Academy.
Stefan Kuhn
Stefan Kuhn

Cross-country skier Stefan Kuhn wasted no time making the transition from race course to work force, as the former Olympian has been hired to help coach the Alberta World Cup Academy.

Cross-country ski insiders were aware of Kuhn’s plans to retire after this season and the AWCA wasted no time locking up the sprint specialist.

“He really is a natural fit, " said AWCA program director Mike Cavaliere. “He has so much knowledge. There are so many things you don’t have to teach him. He’s young, enthusiastic, smart and a great skier. "

Kuhn has seen it all as a skier: The Olympics and world cup races as well as miserable training sessions. He took a two-year hiatus from the sport to travel and become a chef before returning to become one of the nation’s best ski sprinters. His 15th-place finish at the Vancouver Olympics is the best men’s sprint in Canadian history.

“I hope to use my experience to help the athletes deal with pressure and get them to the top echelon of the sport, " Kuhn said. “I did everything the hard way and when I came through, didn’t have anyone to talk to. If I’m around, I’m easy for the athletes to connect to. "

Being fresh out of the sport, he understands the sacrifices – mental and physical – that being an elite athlete entails.

“Everyone has to make the decision. When it’s raining and hailing and you have to train for three hours, you have to be prepared to do that. Otherwise, you may be doing the sport for the wrong reasons, " Kuhn said.

He’s amassed several tricks and tips that he’ll share with the skiers.

“I’ll let them in on a few things and I have my magic ski bag with fast skis. I’m sure the athletes will want to jump on those, " Kuhn said.

Canada has lacked depth on the cross-country coaching scene, hiring four international coaches in four years before the Canadian national team brought in Justin Wadsworth. The American is committed until 2014, however, Cavaliere said the AWCA wants to help develop more local coaches.

“Our goal is to develop the next national team coach, " Cavaliere said.

On top of hiring Kuhn, Cavaliere is reducing his responsibilities with the team, while former Olympian Chris Jeffries is stepping up his role to become head coach.

“This gives Chris the opportunity to put his own stamp on things overall. It’s a great opportunity for him to put his ideas in action, " Cavaliere said.

Cavaliere said the plan was always for him to step aside and let other coaches try their hand at running the program.

Jeffries will have more on his plate, as the AWCA is expanding. The academy recently signed a deal with Cross Country Alberta to handle the coaching and training of the 14-member provincial team. They also expanded the national talent squad, which means younger teenage athletes can now become AWCA racers.

Currently, the program only works with elite athletes close to making national teams.

“This gives us a true top to bottom program. We can have everything from 27-year-old elite athletes to kids just starting to think about their Olympic dream, " Cavaliere said.

The idea is to allow younger skiers the chance to work with their older counterparts, picking up training tips and strong habits.

“They get to see what great skiers look like. It’s something people have talked about doing for a long time. In Canmore, it’s not a big co-ordination challenge, " Cavaliere said.

The increased number of athletes (now up to 50) means fundraising becomes even more important for the organization.

The AWCA has had a lot of success producing Olympic-calibre athletes. Four of their athletes were recently named to the senior development team: Kevin Sandau, Alysson Marshal, and Emily and Graham Nishikawa.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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