Andi Naude of Canadas Olympic moguls team does some training on Apex Mountain at night to simulate the conditions the skiers will be competing on at the Olympics in South Korea. Mark Brett/Western News

Okanagan coach readying Team Canada freestyle athletes for Olympics

Members of Canada’s Olympic moguls mens and womens teams were training in Penticton this week

Describing the training environment at Apex Mountain a “dream,” the Penticton head coach of the Canadian men’s moguls team says his guys are ready to rock the Olympics.

After spending the last 10 days on the local ski hill, Rob Kober, his coaching staff and team members boarded the 6 a.m. flight Thursday at Penticton Regional Airport on the first leg of their journey to Pyeongchang, South Korea and the XXIII Olympic Winter Games.

“It’s the perfect course up here on Kristi’s Run and we’ve been enjoying ideal conditions. I can’t imagine a better set up for a pre-Olympic camp,” said Kober who has been at the helm of Canada’s powerhouse for a dozen years. “The course here is ideal for adding intensity in a relatively safe environment, and we kind of fly under the radar so that helps minimize distractions.

“I think having that kind of environment where everything is ideal on the snow we can insulate the athletes and keep it fun, keep them well-fed and rested and we can do all that here.”

He credits the outstanding programs at Apex over the years for producing top calibre skiers like former Summerland Olympian Kristi Richards and Penticton’s Andi Naude, 22, who will be seeing her first action in the Olympics this year on the women’s team.

“I’m biased but I think Andi’s going to win,” said Kober, whose two sons Jordan and Josh and daughter Chloe are all involved in the sport. “Andi’s awesome, she’s awesome, can’t say enough good stuff about her, and right now she’s really peaking at the right time.

“I think Andi’s best stuff is the best stuff out there right now.”

Naude joined the national team at age 16 and narrowly missed the cut for the 2014 games in Sochi.

And for his part, if results are any indication of success, Kober is definitely on the right track.

The Canadian men finished one, two in the 2014 Olympics and the silver medalist that year, Mikaël Kingsbury, is back for his third try at a gold.

Kingsbury has been burning up the course on the World Cup this season and is favoured to wind up on the top shelf of the podium this time.

“Mik’s been on a terrific tear here for quite a while and hopefully will live up to those expectations,” said Kober.

The Canadian men suffered what he described as a “devastating” blow a couple weeks ago when their number-two guy, Philippe Marquis, tore his ACL at a World Cup event in Deer Valley, Utah.

The injury, however, has not kept the 28-year-old veteran off the skis.

“He trained last night at Apex and he looks great and he’s going to try, but it’s a pretty terrible injury,” said Kober. “It’s been done before but with no ACL it’s a pretty aggressive mission.”

With such a strong, experienced team the coach is not planning to come back home empty-handed.

“If I’m honest, nope,” he said about being satisfied without winning a medal. “To be successful we definitely need to come out there with some hardware, that’s for sure. At the same time, I would say how we handle failure — hopefully we won’t have to — but how we handle that will define our team as much as anything.”

He added: “For me, the way I think about our team, our program and any individual athlete is definitely not going to be defined by the results from any one event, whether it’s the Olympic Games or anything else.”

The teams will begin training in Pyeongchang on Feb. 5 with both the men’s and women’s first qualifying rounds going at night on Feb 8.

The women’s second qualifying round and finals will be Feb. 11 and the men’s second qualifying and finals are Feb. 12.

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On the slopes of Apex Mountain Mikael Kingsbury of the Canadian men’s Olympic moguls team does a run during training.

Laurent Dumais of the Canadian mens freestyle moguls team performs his routine against the glare of the night lightes at Apex.

Moguls freestyle skier Audrey Robichaud of the Canadian Olympic team completes a jump with the lights of Apex Mountain Resort in the background.

The lighted Kristi’s Run mogul course where members of the Canadian men’s women’s Olympic teams trained this week.

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