Steamboat’s Gilbertson returns to coaching after 7-year hiatus
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ten years ago, Chris Gilbertson was helping Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick, Billy Demong and Brett Camerota to historic podium performances at the Vancouver Olympics. After seeing such great success on the sport’s greatest stage, Gilbertson stopped coaching in 2013.
He’s spent the last seven years focusing on being a father of a now Junior National Nordic Combined Team member but is now returning to coaching as head ski jumping coach for the U.S. Men’s Nordic Combined National Team.
“Honestly, I missed the whole sport; I missed coaching the athletes,” Gilbertson said. “I had spoken with (USA Nordic Executive Director) Bill Demong about getting back into the sport somehow at some level.”
USA Nordic announced Gilbertson’s return to the sport last week in a news release in which newly-appointed Nordic Sport Director Jed Hinkley praised the decision.
“Chris is not afraid to share his opinion, which I value,” he said. “And I know nobody will work harder to help us achieve our goals in athletics and as an organization.”
Gilbertson didn’t expect to be hired to coach at the World Cup level right away but is certainly not complaining about the opportunity. Despite spending seven years out of coaching, he’s confident he can return without losing any ground. While technology and equipment might have improved, the sport itself hasn’t changed much.
“I feel a little bit overwhelmed but also really supported,” Gilbertson said. “The amount of people that have congratulated me has been unbelievable. I’m pretty excited to have all those people support me. I just hope I can live up to their expectations.”
Gilbertson wasn’t completely removed from the sport for the last seven years. His son Gunnar is a Junior National Nordic Combined Team member and competes at a high level. Of course, Chris Gilbertson said he rarely allowed himself to go into coaching mode with his son, leaving that up to the staff at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.
“We always tried to maintain a separate relationship in that regard,” Gilbertson said. “If he asked questions I’d say, ‘Do you want the Dad hat, or the coaches hat?’”
The USA men’s national team is almost an entirely new roster since Gilbertson last coached them, aside from Steamboat native and Olympian Taylor Fletcher. The rest of the crew, Gilbertson hopes to get to know quickly. When he gets to Park City next week, he plans to sit down with the team and allow them to ask questions about him while he figures out what their goals are.
He wants the team to focus on qualifying for major events before worrying about performing well in them. Once they regularly qualify, then he will adjust the focus to earning points and placing well.
“My five-year goal is to get guys back on the podium again,” Gilbertson said. “That’s where the fun is, and that’s really the ultimate result that we’re trying for.”
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