Former UNH skier Coley Oliver is part of Shiffrin’s coaching staff at the Beijing Games

Coley Oliver, an American alpine skier at the University of New Hampshire, joined the U.S. Ski Team as a coach last May and was in Europe working with young riders on the Europa Cup circuit at the mid-January, helping them in competition. and plan ahead for the rest of their season.

“I had no intention of being at the Olympics, until January 15,” the 2015 UNH graduate said at the end of the month.

Things changed quickly.

The next day, Oliver’s schedule not only had him on his way to Beijing and his first Olympics as an adult – he went as a spectator to the Salt Lake Olympics back home at the age of 12 – he was heading there perhaps as part of perhaps the highest -profile entourage in all of skiing.

He’s north of Beijing at the Olympic alpine skiing venue now as a member of Team Shiffrin, the group whose job it is to ensure medal favorite Mikaela Shiffrin has his best Olympics possible.

“It’s obviously very exciting,” Oliver said. “It’s also a little scary. It’s a big responsibility, and working with someone like Mikaela is not at all a responsibility that I take lightly. It’s a huge responsibility not only because of his level of talent and accomplishments, but also his dedication to his job. You really want to be as dedicated as her to providing everything she needs, so there’s nothing holding her back anymore.

Oliver, 31, arrived from Zurich after a long drive from Italy at the end of January.

Oliver’s duties include on-snow and off-snow assignments. He assists head coach Mike Day and Eileen Shiffrin – Mikaela’s mother and 1981 UNH graduate – with running training and also serves as Mikaela’s strength and conditioning coach. Oliver earned a degree in athletic training from UNH, and he usually uses those skills in his job as well, but not right now.

Already one of the most decorated skiers of all time at the age of 26, Shiffrin is a medal threat in every event she competes in, and she hopes to race in five in Beijing – starting with the giant slalom. , which will be on television on Sunday evening. If the weather or any other factor disrupts the schedule of events, she may have to scale back her plans.

“Over the past few years she has become more focused on the races she does and the turns she does than on the results,” Oliver said. “Obviously at the end of the day you want to ski fast and you want results, but she’s more focused on her skiing. She is one of the best, if not the best, to participate in major competitions, world championships, the Olympic Games. I’m not going to make any predictions, but I expect her to get out there and ski the best she can.

Oliver and the rest of the team will be there to support her.

“My role on race day is to support Mikaela with all the help, all the information she needs,” Oliver said. “It really starts the day before when Mike Day and I watch the first run of the course. We’ll get an idea of ​​what’s going to happen and talk to her about it.

In the morning, everyone will be there to help if Shiffrin needs anything while she warms up.

“At inspection time (of course), she tends to like looking at things for herself,” Oliver said. “If she needs or wants to talk about something, we can be there and talk about certain sections of the course, or whatever.”

Oliver will be on the course as the race approaches and will report anything he sees on the course at the last minute to the coach with her on top.

“Hopefully she comes out next and skis her best,” Oliver said.

Standing alongside the Olympic courses in February in Yanquing at the National Alpine Center northwest of Beijing is not what Oliver envisioned when he joined the US Ski Team.

“Of all the scenarios I imagined happening this season, this was not one,” Oliver said. “But I’m very happy and very excited about it.”

Besides, that’s not what he had expected when he left UNH either. He qualified for the NCAA championships in all four years as a Wildcat, was an NCAA giant slalom runner-up in 2013, and followed that up with second-team All American finishes in 2014 and 2015.

“In my senior year of college, I had no intention of staying in ski racing,” Oliver said. “It’s not because I didn’t want to, but sports training is already quite limited in terms of what is available. I was going to broaden my horizons and consider higher education or look into different sports.

He worked with the UNH ski team for one season as an equipment manager while completing his athletic training degree.

“He’s had a great skiing career with us and he’s been a huge help when he’s worked with us,” said UNH Alpine coach Brian Blank. “I think that kind of launched him into a coaching career and then he stuck with it.”

Oliver’s interest and commitment to strength and conditioning along with his studies in athletic training have all helped.

“It makes him much more valuable as a coach,” Blank said. “He can fill many roles.”

As her first job outside of UNH, Oliver coached and coached at Stratton Mountain School, a ski academy in Vermont, and did strength and conditioning and coached on the women’s alpine side.

After Stratton he had the chance to work in the same role in Park City with a new team and after three years he signed up with the US Ski Team.

When Shiffrin’s team was looking for help, he got the call.

Everything went well.

“It’s pretty cool what he’s doing,” Blank said. “And this is a great opportunity.”

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