For nearly a decade, three-time Olympian Alan Alborn of Anchorage was the country's top ski jumper. He got into the sport as a kid at the Karl Eid Ski Jumps, where for awhile he jumped in secret -- his mom thought she was dropping him off to ski at Hilltop, but after she drove away, Alborn would sneak over to the ski jumps.
After competing at the Olympics in 1998, 2002 and 2006 -- collecting three top-15 finishes along the way -- Alborn retired.
Today he is the head coach for Women's Ski Jumping USA -- a job that puts him in the midst of some of the world's top female jumpers, who will make their Olympic debut in 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
We caught up with Alborn, 31, who lives in Park City, Utah, with his wife Gora, whom he met in Oslo during his days as a competitor and married in 2007, the year he retired. They have three sons, all under the age of 5.
Q. Is it hard being a coach and not being an athlete? What do you miss about competing? And does coaching fill any of that void?
A. Yes, it is hard to coach and not be able to be as athletic as I was, but that comes with having a family and responsibilities, and my family comes first. What I miss about competing is the actual event, not the travel and other activities going into a competition.
I miss the rush and the flying. Coaching does not fill the void and I still dream of jumping, but when I see an athlete succeed or enjoy what they are doing I feel proud of what I have led them to enjoy. I want to teach my athletes to be better at life and sport than I was.
Q. Do you ever get to take jumps as a coach? If so, are you still really good?
A. I have taken a few jumps as a coach but my body being heavier and my knees giving me issues takes the fun away. The first jump is fun, but then I immediately go into competitive mode and think of how to make the jump better. I hope to jump again with my athletes for fun, but I need to get in better shape before I try again.
Am I still good? The answer is yes, in my mind.
Q. What are some of the challenges of coaching women and girls in a sport that is still relatively new for them? Are they all advanced jumpers or are you teaching some basics along with advanced techniques?
A. Coaching women for sure has it challenges, but at the end of the day they are athletes trying to be better at their sport. The ladies I coach have been jumping just as long or longer than I have so it is not new to most of them. Some of the challenges are having the team get along on the road, respect each other in a professional manner and just dealing with all their schedules and trying to get them all together for training. Most of the ladies I coach are advanced jumpers so we focus on very specific areas of technique, and some of the ladies I coach are just beginners. So it is a challenging job for me to always be changing my coaching style or personality to fit the athletes.
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