Russia’s progress in the relatively new sport of ski cross has been remarkable, says national team coach, Mario Rafetzeder, adding that his men now have a good chance to be on the podium at the home Olympics in Sochi 2014.
Mario Rafetzeder looks young enough to still be competing, however, injury put paid to the 33-year-old's promising skiing career.
He turned his attention to coaching ski cross – a discipline he's excelling at. His attention is now firmly fixed on trying to get Russia onto the podium next year in Sochi.
“I had a lot of success and a lot of experience,” Rafetzeder told RT. “I think that’s the reason, why I’m coming here – to bring some experience to the Russians for the ski cross. Of course, ski cross is a young sport, but I think – we saw it in the last Olympics – it’s one of the spectacular sports.”
Rafetzeder saw Russia struggle in Vancouver in 2010 as he was coaching the Austrian team, which came away from Canada with a silver medal.
Russia has been slow to adapt in the sport of ski cross. However, in the two and a half years Mario has been coaching his adopted nation, he has witnessed dramatic improvement.
“The progress is really amazing because when I worked with the Austrians nobody knew about the Russians. It was the smallest team,” the coach remembered. “And now – after two-and-a-half years – we have made really big process. Now everybody knows us, everybody respects us. That’s what I wanted. And when we start next year everybody should be scared of the Russians."
It is no surprise that ski cross is rapidly growing in popularity. Four skiers go head to head with the first two qualifying for the next round, with the final four left – battling it out for the medals.
The USA, Canada, Austria and Switzerland have traditionally dominated the event.
Egor Korotkov, who came close to winning Russia’s first ever Cross Ski World Cup, is one of the names to look out for in Sochi, with Rafetzeder being very impressed by his progress.
But the Austrian believes each member of his team are capable of doing well at the home Games.
“Egor has really good potential. He works very well,” he said. “But I must really say when I go to Sochi all of my guys have a chance for a medal.”
Mario say's he really enjoys the Russian mentality and has found it very easy to work with his new squad.
He's thriving under the pressure of Russia hosting the next Olympics and has the utmost confidence in his team.
He will have been in the job for almost three-and-a-half years when the Sochi Games get underway, and he's desperate to see his skiers live up to their true potential.
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