The sport community in Smithers offers a very broad range of activities. It also tends to offer a very good level of coaching expertise in those activities.
This year, anyone interested in skiing and snowboarding has had a great opportunity to practice and improve. While there are some excellent coaches put there trying to help our youngsters learn and become better level performers, last year we lost an excellent coach.
Jan Wengelin, a 25-year Smithers resident, was hired by the national snowboard team to become the parallel giant slalom head coach on the alpine snowboard team.
“There are a lot of good young kids in the Smithers area. I think I helped ignite a lot of ideas. The bottom line is that if you build something they will come. The club had a good program,” he said in reference to the high level among the youngsters from the Smithers area.
Last week he was in Collingwood, Ont. where he was attending the national championships before heading out to the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Wengelin said that on the international scale, Canada dropped the program completely after the Sochi Games and they hired him to rebuild it basically from provincial level up to Olympic level.
“You can only do so much in a year but it’s been very positive so far. We reintroduced lots of things that need to be at a core level but it takes time. You don’t build an athletic program in one year. It takes four or five years,” he said.
Wengelin indicated that Canada has a full team going to the Olympics this year and that in some of the disciplines such as slope-style, Canada is the strongest in the world.
“They expect a lot of medals in some disciplines but in alpine it takes more than a year to produce top level results. It’s a matter of dealing with some other items rather than technical issues,” he said.
He said that he was hired to spearhead the program and develop a coaching staff.
“We have a coaching staff of three: one for the Next Gen program, another for the World Cup level,” he said. “We won a World Cup recently in Bulgaria.”
He said that there were no local snowboarders at the Nationals and few athletes from the west coast.
“It’s more freestyle based and board-cross based on the west coast. As you get more east, it becomes more alpine influenced,” he said.
Wengelin has been to the Olympics five times so he brings great experience and knowledge to the team.
He will return here later in February before heading out to Europe for a variety of competitions.