Penticton’s Rob Kober, head coach of the Canadian men’s freestyle moguls team and gold medal prospect Mikaël Kingsbury talk strategy at Apex. Mark Brett/Western News

Life on the road to Olympic gold for Penticton coach

Penticton’s Rob Kober talks about life on the road with his ski team who are now in South Korea

Home away from home.

Spending as much time on the road as he does, living out of a suitcase for months at a time with his team, Rob Kober head coach of the Canadian men’s freestyle moguls squad, says they can’t help but become a very close knit group.

Like it or not.

“Absolutely it’s like a second family. The guys speak about that a lot, maybe even more than their actual results and that makes me super proud to hear that,” said Kober who makes his real home in Penticton in the off-season when he’s not travelling the globe on the World Cup freestyle circuit. “We have a great chemistry among the staff and team, we’ve all worked together for years.

“These guys are very tight and we’ve all been through a lot together. That’s pretty special.”

Related: Your guide to Okanagan athletes competing at the PyeongChang Olympics

However he admitted quarters do get a little too close for comfort at times.

“I love my guys and I love my job still, but that part (living in each others back pockets) doesn’t get any easier the older I get,” said Kober, 49, with a laugh. “I feel like a need a little bit more of my own space every year.”

The veteran coach of the highly-favoured men’s freestyle moguls team and his charges settled into their new digs at the PyeongChang Olympic village on the weekend.

Leaving Penticton last Thursday, after having spent 10 days training at Apex Mountain, both men’s and women’s moguls teams wasted no time hitting the slopes in South Korea.

First training day was Monday with additional training runs on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for the first qualifying round (men’s and women’s) Thursday.

Related: Olympics alert: Naude qualifies for finals in second place

The women’s final qualifying round is Sunday and if things go according to plan, Penticton’s Andi Naude, 22, ranked number two in the world, will be in the finals later that day.

🇨🇦 GAME ON 🇨🇦 ••• Thanks @ramblingvagabond for the picture!

A post shared by Andi Naude (@andi_naude) on

For Kober and his team, including gold-medal favourite Mikaël Kingsbury, 25, their last qualifier and the finals will be Monday.

Related: Penticton coach prepping Freestyle Canada athletes for Olympics at Apex

After his second day of training in Korea, Kingsbury told Reuters News Agency the current bitterly cold temperatures there may actually work to his advantage in his bid for a first gold medal.

He won a silver in Sochi.

As far as Naude’s chances for some hardware at her first Olympics, before leaving for Korea, Kober predicted there is good chance she will bring a medal back to the Okanagan, possibly even gold.

Related: One more hill to conquer for Naude at Olympics

Meanwhile, Kober’s wife Tonya is at home in Penticton for these Olympics and admitted she was on pins and needles waiting for the moguls to start.

“I’m just pacing right now, I can’t stand it, I can’t sit down, I just feel like I’m floating in limbo,” she said Thursday with the television turned to the CBC Olympic coverage in the background. “We’ve been messaging on the phone and Rob said the course is pretty tough, big moguls and it’s bitterly cold so that’s going to play into the performances.

“As I want the team to do well I just want my husband to reach his goal and feel accomplished.”

Rob too was feeling the squeeze, saying there is the added pressure after the Canadians won gold and silver in 2014 in Sochi.

“I keep telling myself I like it (pressure) and that’s part of why I got into coaching especially at the national level, I do,” said Kober convincingly. “There’s pressure, there’s no doubt about it but you have to embrace it and manage it by staying focused.

“We’re trying to treat the Olympics like business as usual, not too much differently than any other World Cup competition but…”

Win or lose at this year’s Olympics, Kober said: “This is amazing, I’m super proud to be there with my guys and representing my country. We just have such strong pride in our country, what our values are and what Canada means to each of us.”

 

Mikaël Kingsbury a gold medal favourite at the Olympics during a training session on Kristi’s Run at Apex Mountain Resort last week. Mark Brett/Western News

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