Martin Rufener named as Switzerland's head men's coach


Martin Rufener named as Switzerland’s head men’s coach{mosimage}The Swiss ski team has named Martin Rufener head coach of its men’s alpine team. Rufener, who coached the American women and Canadian men in the 1980′s and early 1990′s, left full-time coaching in 1993 for a job as a commercial helicopter pilot, but has not lost touch with the sport.

“I was a little bit surprised to get the phone call,” said Rufener, who was contacted by the Swiss federation in February. “I wasn’t too far from the sport. I was the chief of race at the world championships in St. Moritz [in 2003], and I was involved in the organization.”

Historically one of the sport’s strongest squads, the Swiss men’s team struggled this season, scoring only 2,660 World Cup points (as opposed to 3,702 the year before). Rufener replaces Karl Frehsner, who held the post for two years. Up to 20 candidates were approached about the job, according to Swiss daily Berner Zeitung online. Among those short-listed was Christian Leitner, Finland’s men’s coach.

“I’ve been getting good feedback from the athletes and the industry,” said Rufener. “Changes are coming that give more flexibility. The athletes we have are not as bad as people think, as bad as people were writing. I think we have a good coaching staff, and there are some good young guys coming up. They need another year on the Europa Cup, but they’ll be good soon.”

Rufener has already redesigned the team’s staff. He will oversee three discipline coaches: Hans Flatscher, formerly with the German team, will lead a DH/SG group; Patrice Morisod will be in charge of a second cross-discipline group that will split off for the preparation period; and Sepp Brunner, who has long been Sonya Nef’s personal coach, will lead the GS/SL squad. Rufener says that his long absence from the sport means he’ll need to defer to his staff often on many technical matters. “With some things I may be a little off,” he admits.

Rufener coached the American women from 1984 until the 1990-1991 season. He worked with Tamara McKinney, Diane Roffe and Eva Twardokens. He remembers Heidi Voelker and Monique Pelletier as up-and-comers. “We had a great time,” he recalls. “A lot of success. In one or two years, many of them came from the back to the top 15.”

After his stint with the American women, Rufener tried to get a job flying helicopters, but struggled there, so he went back to coaching, this time in Canada. As head men’s coach from 1991 to 1993, he worked with Rob Boyd, Brian Stemmle, Cary Mullen and a young Thomas Grandi. He reorganized the team’s development strategy around three regional training centers. “We put more emphasis on the technical side,” says Rufener. “Back then the team was still close to the Crazy Canucks.”

Since 1993, Rufener has been a helicopter pilot in Switzerland. He was talked into returning by Gian Gilli, the Swiss team’s boss, who said he was happy to hire another native Swiss to the post. Rufener takes over on the first day of May, and will have some meetings with his team and staff. He says the Swiss men won’t hit the snow again until late June or early July. “I want them to be hungry,” he says.

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