Alborn ready to make his mark on women’s ski jumping program
July 12, 2011
At age 30, Alan Alborn has already done enough in his lifetime to relax and spend time with this wife and three sons.
However, the three-time Olympian ski jumper (1998, 2002 and 2006), is now ready to land on his own two feet from a different type of launching pad.
Alan Alborn is the new head coach of the VISA Women’s Ski Jumping Team. His job is to lead an already heralded group of athletes into the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
"I have been watching the ladies’ program for the last several years," he said. "I have obviously seen firsthand the struggles they’ve been going through. I used to ski jump with quite a few of the ladies on the team now. We were teammates, so to speak. We’re all trying to progress the sport in the U.S."
At 16 years old, when he first began jumping, Alborn recalls a younger and very eager ski jumper by the name of Lindsey Van.
"She was always super passionate about the sport," he said. "It’s nice to look back and see the progress she’s made as well as the whole women’s ski jumping movement."
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Alborn will spearhead a team of professional athletes who were continually denied access to the highest level of the sport. But he isn’t walking into a program where he will have to teach athletes how to jump.
"My main focus for the girls, the No. 1 thing I want to establish with the team, is a more structured team," he said. "There’s going to be more guidelines, more transparent criteria we’re up against other countries and organizations that are going to step it up. All the big-hitter countries, they obviously want the most success behind this as well.
"For us, as a program, we need to get more professional from top to bottom and to allow the ladies to just be the athletes. They need to focus on training and upcoming competitions."
He said he will separate the oft-crossed line of politics and athletics that came with the territory as women’s ski jumping tried to become an official Olympic sport.
"I’m proud of what the ladies have done in getting to Sochi (Russia)," he said. "I think it’ll be very rewarding for them in their athletic careers."
Also a coach with the Park City Nordic Ski Club, Alborn retired from ski jumping in 2007. The new gig comes with much more responsibility, but Alborn seems ready to tackle it head on.
When asked how he will prepare his athletes for their first Olympiad, Alborn said, "I have a lot of experience preparing for the Olympic games. Obviously, this being the first time, my goal with the ladies is to slowly start talking to them about it-what the overall feel is going to be like.
"Going to the Olympics needs to be a personal experience, but I also don’t want them to get caught up in too much of it. It’s such a big deal for them. It’s their sport and their ski jumping. If nothing else, it’s just the competition name is different."
The team and the sport will undoubtedly carry a chip on their shoulder in preparing for the Sochi games, but Alborn knows ski jumping and knows how athletes can be atop the world one year and near the bottom the next. Nothing is a given, he said, and qualifying for the Olympics in Sochi and growing as a team are the most important things to him.
"Any athlete can get distracted based around their surroundings," he said. "Obviously, we have a lot of work to do keeping our team high enough in the standings. Those ladies are going to qualify for that.
"My job is to get them all well enough. They’re all very talented as it is."
He says he wants to constantly remind his team that while they are some of the best in their sport, hard work and consistency are what will get them on the podium in Sochi.
"That’s the most challenging thing with ski jumping, trying to find a standard for athletes and slowly try and build on that," he said. "It takes time, it takes patience and the ladies have that. Being three years out of Sochi, I’m excited about the possibilities about where these girls can go. I want to see them be better athletes than I was."