Erik Flora, the Alaska Pacific University cross-country ski coach who has guided three team members to World Cup podium finishes, was named the nation's top ski coach Friday by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
Flora was the winner of one of five USSA Gold Awards presented at the annual USSA Congress in Park City, Utah. The award recognizes him as the top coach in the country in any discipline -- nordic, alpine, snowboarding, jumping or freestyle -- and marks the first time the honor has gone to a cross-country coach.
Flora, the head of the APU ski program, is the coach of two-time World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall of Anchorage, the star of the U.S. Ski Team's cross country squad.
He also coaches three other athletes who are members of the U.S. Ski Team -- Holly Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen and Erik Bjornsen. Two of them, Brooks and Sadie Bjornsen, boast World Cup podium finishes.
Brooks praised Flora's "dedication, vision and leadership," while noting that Flora's athletes comprise one-half of the U.S. women's team.
The USSA noted Flora's teamwork and training methods when presenting him with the Gold Award:
"Known to be a team player, he supported athletes in any possible way when traveling to international and major events In the 2012-13 season, his coaching methods continued to prove highly effective, with athletes topping of some of the most prestigious podiums in the world.
"Under his leadership of the APU program, the U.S. Ski Team has seen a new level of success in cross country skiing."
This is the second time Flora has won a USSA Gold Award. In 2008, he was named Development Coach of the Year for all disciplines.
This year's award makes him the first cross-country coach to be named the USSA's top coach since the award was created in 1998.
For the fourth time in his career, Flora was recognized as the nation's top cross-country coach, an honor frequently bestowed upon Alaska coaches. Past winners include Jan Buron, Jim Galanes and Chris Grover.
Randall, meanwhile, was honored as the season's top cross-country athlete for the sixth year in a row.
Anchorage Daily News