Martin Rufener, who helped transform the Swiss team into a powerhouse that won multiple World Cup, world championship and Olympic titles, was named Alpine Canada Alpin’s (ACA) alpine director in 2013. This marks the second time Rufener has worked for the Canadian team, as he coached the men’s team in the early 1990s.
Alpine Canada Alpin checked in with Rufener this summer to gauge the alpine team’s outlook heading into the 2015-16 competition season.
There have been some really exciting additions to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team this year. Can you tell us a bit about the new head coaches joining this year?
Martin Rufener: Roland Pfeifer comes to us this year with an impressive roster of former athletes and results. Last year Pfeifer was the U.S. women’s technical coach working closely with Mikaela Shiffrin. The Austrian native also ran programs for younger racers and athletes which has prepared him well for our diverse ski team that includes veterans like Erin Mielzynski and Marie-Michèle Gagnon, as well as a slate of promising younger athletes like Candace Crawford and Mikaela Tommy.
One of our big goals for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games is to achieve highlights on the speed side. Valerio Ghirardi, Tina Maze’s former coach, joins the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. It feels like a really good fit and I’m confident he will help the team make big leaps forward with the women’s group.
Paolo De Florian was previously an Italian team coach, taking the athletes all the way to the top. He previously worked with Dustin Cook and knows many of our athletes really well. I’m confident his experience will be a great transition into the group and we’ll have a successful year as he leads the technical team.
What are you big goals this season as we get closer to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games?
MR: This year we will work to have our new head coaches integrated with the teams, develop their plans and develop goals for the season. We are all excited and looking to success ahead because the new coaches have a lot of experience with high performance with different teams around the world. We are so happy to have them with us.
We are going to be working to get back to the podium and land some wins this season. The younger athletes, who have been tremendously successful on the NorAm circuit, have moved up to the World Cup group. We are looking to see solid and consistent top 30 wins for those athletes as they work to collect World Cup points. We will use this year, the year before the World Championships, to move up young athletes and build confidence for our senior racers.
What have the athletes been focusing on during the summer months to prepare for the season?
MR: Our athletes are finishing up a big block of dryland training. For the past six to eight weeks, they have been in a centralized training facility in Calgary working with Matt Jordan, Director of Sport Science and IST. They’ve all been working exceptionally hard on conditioning to improve their performances on snow.
Where are the alpine athletes headed to for on snow training?
MR: After weeks in the gym, our athletes are heading all over to find snow. Erik Guay, who is coming back from an injury last season, has already been on snow. He had a successful day and we are thrilled at his progress!
By the middle of July, the men’s combi group will be going to Mendes, France, with new head coach, Paolo De Florian. The speed team will be going to Ushuaia, Argentina, with Burkhard Schaffer. It’s really important for the men’s speed team to ski in the southern hemisphere where they can train on winter snow and in winter conditions. It is also the perfect opportunity for the athletes to test new equipment.
On Aug. 1, the women’s combi team, with new head coach Roland Pfeifer, and the speed team will head to Zermatt, Switzerland, with head coach Valerio Ghirardi.
These big blocks of on snow training that take our athletes into the fall are an important time. They focus on basic techniques and drills, repetition and free skiing after six to eight weeks of dryland training.
Jan Hudec and Phil Brown will not be in attendance for on-snow camps as they work to recover from injuries.
Release courtesy of ACA