Cameron Chin was born and grew up in Park City and still calls it home.  He’s been on skis since he was a toddler. (Courtesy of Cameron Chin).
Cameron Chin was born and grew up in Park City and still calls it home. He's been on skis since he was a toddler. (Courtesy of Cameron Chin).
Cameron Chin will join a gaggle of Utah Olympic athletes this week at the Winter Games in Sochi, as they prepare for the biggest sporting event of their lives. But the homegrown Parkite won't be competing. He'll be coaching the women's alpine ski team - the Russian Women's National Ski Team, to be precise. Hmmm.

"That's not so unusual," says Chin. "Most teams competing at the Olympic, World Cup and Europa Cup level employ quite a mixture of nationalities. The Russian training staff includes Americans, Slovenians and Austrians."

After a disappointing showing at the last Winter Olympics in Canada, the Russians completely overhauled their alpine training program in 2010. Chin, who had skied and trained in New Hampshire with the team's newly-named head coach, was hired as the conditioning coach and assistant coach for the speed and technical team.

Chin says there were challenges initially due to the inherent cultural differences between Russians and Americans. He explains the Russians had traditionally focused on Nordic skiing events at the games and trained accordingly. Such long races call for exceptional aerobic endurance. "They wanted us to train their alpine skiers the same way, focusing on endurance rather than strength. It took awhile for us to convince them that strength was more important for downhill skiers, whose races usually last less than two minutes," he says.

Chin, now 33 years old, is the son of longtime Park City residents Val and Steve Chin. He acquired his coaching acumen on-the-job during three decades of skiing and racing. "I started skiing around the age of two and fell in love with it. My parents placed me in this beautiful Park City environment, presented me with the challenge to ski and I rose to it."

His father recalls his early days in competition. "Cameron started racing slalom at about nine. He was a good, aggressive racer, however, his aggressiveness didn't always get him to the finish line," he laughs.

Chin was on the Park City Ski Team throughout his school years and was in the first graduating class of the Park City Winter Sports School. He went on to attend the University of New Hampshire and race on their ski team. After taking a degree in fine arts, he returned home to jobs as education coordinator at the Kimball Art Center and art teacher at the Park City Winter Sports School.

Though trained in the arts, Chin was a natural at coaching skiers. Returning to his roots, he also coached for the Winter Sports School and the Park City Ski Team. He steadily progressed into coaching at the highest level. "I'm passionate about my work as a ski coach, it's something that has always existed in my life," he says. "In my opinion there is no other sport that poses the challenges that ski racing does. Everything is always changing: location, snow conditions, course sets, lighting, equipment and more. It truly brings out the adaptability in individuals and I find that incredibly interesting."

Chin says the team spends a lot of time away from home. "We're always chasing snow year-round. We're headquartered in Austria and that gives us easier access to the glaciers in the spring and fall and good snow in the winter."

Four years into his tenure with the Russian team, Chin still likes the job. "I enjoy the travel and the experiences, both cultural and career-wise. It poses challenges and requires on-the-sport problem solving. There is never a day that is the same. Plus, you're always outside and active."

He expects the entire Russian team to perform better at Sochi than they did four years ago in Canada. "I think you will see a change in the medal count compared to the Vancouver games. They walked away from those games with 15 medals, sixth place in the nation rankings. I would be very surprised if their medal count doesn't go up."

It's personal for Chin. "In the end, the biggest joy I feel is seeing an individual succeed. There is nothing quite like seeing athletes that you've worked with attain their goals and know that you've helped them get there."

Chin will leave Austria in a few days, bound for Sochi with his team, fingers crossed. He'll be back home in Park City on February 17 for a week before returning to Europe for the remainder of the World and Europa Cup seasons.

VITAL STATISTICS:

  • Favorite activities: mountain biking, working on his house, spending time with family and friends
  • Favorite foods: mom's cooking and pizza
  • Favorite reading: CNN online
  • Favorite music: "Depends on my mood but, when I'm driving, National Public Radio."
  • Bucket list: start a family, learn more languages, go to a '49ers game.
  • Animal companions: two cats at home