PARK CITY, Utah (May 15) – Phil McNichol (Park City, UT), who retired after 12 years of service with the U.S. Ski Team following the 2008 season, is being distinguished as the 2008 USSA International Coach of the Year for his contributions and commitment to the successes of the men's U.S. Alpine Ski Team. Alaska Pacific University Nordic Center's Erik Flora (Anchorage), who has been influential in the careers of many cross country skiers including Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), is being named USSA Domestic Coach of the Year.
They will be honored at the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association's awards dinner May 16 in Park City during USSA Congress 2008. They led a group of 12 coaches recognized by the USSA in each of its specific sport programs.
McNichol Leads Athletes to Titles
McNichol worked through all levels of the men's alpine program, starting as the development head coach and proceeding as Europa Cup downhill/super G coach and slalom/GS head coach before being named men's head coach for the 2003 season.
“I'm very flattered. I think that ski coaching is not necessarily a field that you're in for any acknowledgment and it's always nice when someone does acknowledge you and what you've done,” McNichol said. “For myself, receiving this award is more a recognition of the program and the entire staff on the men's team.”
During his time as head coach, McNichol saw a number of the men on the team achieve incredible successes. Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH) and Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) took gold and bronze at the 2003 World Championships in St. Mortiz. Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA) and Miller took gold and silver at the 2005 World Championships in Bormio, after which Miller went on to win the first World Cup overall title for U.S. men in 22 years.
Miller, Rahlves, Steven Nyman (Provo, UT), Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) and Marco Sullivan (Squaw Valley, CA) each won World Cups under McNichol's leadership. And this past season, Ligety won the World Cup GS title, marking the ninth title win under McNichol's direction.
McNichol was a racer while growing up in Washington, CT and started his coaching career while a student in the mid-Eighties at Northern Arizona University. He joined the U.S. Ski Team after splitting the Nineties as head coach at Ski Club Vail and the Park City Ski Team. McNichol was also named Alpine International Coach of the Year along with Patrick Riml (Heber City, UT).
Alaskan Honored as Domestic Coach of Year
Flora was named USSA Development Coach of the Year for his commitment to the training of athletes as well as his dedication to providing opportunities to nordic skiers everywhere. The head coach at the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, Flora has been a key factor in the success of the top nordic skiers in the nation, including the first woman to win a cross country World Cup, Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK). He was also named the Cross Country Domestic Coach of the Year.
“It's a huge honor to receive this award. We're very pleased. We've been a development program here for about 10 years and the program has really been growing in strength,” Flora said. “We've had a fantastic season so to receive the award at the end of the year is terrific.”
Riml Shares Alpine Honor with McNichol
Riml, who retired as the U.S. Ski Team's women's head coach following the 2008 season, is Alpine International Coach of the Year along with McNichol for his world-class leadership, which guided the Team to many successes.
A member of the U.S. Ski Team staff for seven years, Riml led his team to World Cup, World Championship and Olympic success, which most recently culminated with Lindsey Vonn's (Vail, CO) capturing of the World Cup downhill and overall titles. One of the highlights was Julia Mancuso's (Olympic Valley, CA) Olympic giant slalom gold in 2006, plus World Championship medals by Mancuso in 2005 and both Vonn and Mancuso in 2007.
Knoepfel Named Alpine Domestic Coach of Year
Bruce Knoepfel, coach for Iced Out Racing, a program affiliated with Team Summit, is the Alpine Domestic Coach of the Year. Knoepfel received the honor for bringing together a group of athletes and creating the new Iced Out program, leading its athletes to top results in the J2 National Championships. Knoepfel has also coached a number of other junior programs and has been involved in NDS projects that further promote the growth of young athletes.
Whitcomb Named Cross Country International Coach of Year
Matt Whitcomb, a coach for the U.S. Ski Team's Continental Cupsquad, is the Cross Country International Coach of the Year. Whitcomb provided the long-term training and guidance that led Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) to her unprecedented success as a bronze medalist at the U23 World Championships this season. Stephen's success illustrated Whitcomb's desire to push his athletes to strive for success in areas that have eluded the team in success in previous years.
Roberts Honored as Disabled Coach of Year
Ben Roberts, a U.S Disabled Alpine Team technician for two seasons before turning to a coaching position in 2006, is the Disabled Coach of the Year. Roberts played a key role in the Team's success this season, including Chris Devlin-Young's (sit-ski; Campton, NH) World Cup super G title. Roberts is also current member of the International Paralympic Committee's Alpine Skiing working group and has shown a consistent commitment to leadership in coaching has pushed the Team forward in the pursuit of success.
Schirman, Chase Take Freestyle Coach Honors
Todd Schirman, a former moguls athlete and now coach for the U.S. Ski Team, is the Freestyle International Coach of the Year. Schirman, a coach on both the NorAm and World cup levels, has an energy that has transcended through the program, allowing others to feel enthused by his knowledge and dedication. His excitement for the success of the athletes paved the way for 10 World Cup podiums by C Team moguls athletes.
Former U.S. Ski Team aerialist Elana Chase is the Freestyle Domestic Coach of the Year. Chase, who has been the program director and head coach for Okemo and The Canyons, is being recognized in her fourth year with Aspen Valley Ski Club for the extraordinary success of her program in the 2008 season. Under her coaching, athletes from AVSC acheived16 Junior Olympic medals, eight of which were gold, and four athletes earned spots to compete in three World Cup events. She also coached national halfpipe titlist Jen Hudak (Park City, UT), who finished second in the World Cup, winning in Italy.
Ottesen, Ward Honored as Nordic Combined Coaches
Olympic medalist Lasse Ottesen is the Nordic Combined International Coach of the Year. Ottesen, who competed on the World Cup circuit for 11 years, joined the U.S. coaching staff after the 2004 season and took over the nordic combined squad with the 2007 season. Under his direction, Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) reached new heights in American nordic skiing history by finishing third in the World Cup standings – the highest mark achieved by an American nordic skier. Ottesen left the Team after the 2008 season to return to his native Norway.
A nine-year U.S. Cross Country Ski Team athlete and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Nordic Team captain, Craig Ward (Aspen, CO) is the Nordic Combined Domestic Coach of the Year. Ward, who's currently working with Aspen Valley Ski Club to raise funds for a new jumping complex, is known for his commitment to strengthening the nordic combined and ski jumping disciplines through the creation of programs and fundraising for facilities. In 2002 he petitioned AVSC to re-start a ski jumping program, which continues to grow thanks to his leadership.
Bower, Boyd Honored as Snowboarding Coaches
Former U.S. Snowboarding athlete and now coach Rick Bower is the Snowboarding International Coach of the Year. Under Bower's guidance, Gretchen Bleiler (Aspen, CO) became an X Games gold medalist, Louie Vito (Columbus, OH) had podiums at three major events and became the Chevy U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix champion and Greg Bretz (Mammoth Lakes, CA) had three World Cup and two Grand Prix podiums. It is for his lengthy commitment and strong dedication to the sport that has earned Bower, a former World Champion himself, the award.
Ben Boyd, the snowboarding program director at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail is the Snowboarding Domestic Coach of the Year. Boyd, who was asked to start the snowboarding program at the club six years ago, has driven the program from the ground up and had his first athlete named to U.S. Snowboarding with Broc Waring (Edwards, CO) last season. The program experienced numerous other successes with athletes winning in the Revolutions Tour, making two of the final heats in the Chevy U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix and competing on the World Cup level.