It was Boyd’s show. The camp was all his idea and no one else’s. And he put the thing together with the same quiet determination that led him to the top of the World Cup downhill standings 20 years ago.
“I really want our girls to start feeling like Whistler is their home,” explains Boyd, now entering his fifth season as the Canadian women’s speed coach. “You see, the more time they spend here, the less they’ll feel out of place come February 2010. I really believe that could be our secret weapon when it comes time to race for Olympic gold… So any time we spend on the mountain here is positive time.” He stops speaking for a moment. Juts his chin out for emphasis. Smiles.
“Besides,” he adds, “to be able to train on winter snow in April/May — to start working on real basic stuff for next year so early in the new season — well, it’s the kind of opportunity most other teams would kill for...”
It’s no picnic organizing a camp of this calibre — particularly when you have to convince your higher-ups that paying Whistler prices for a 10-day camp is worth every penny of their investment. And up until a few months ago, some of those higher-ups weren’t entirely convinced. But when Boyd sets out on a mission, potential obstacles are simply considered challenges to overcome.
“It’s not just setting budgets,” he explains. “Or even planning the training schedule. That’s relatively straightforward. But it’s the logistics that get really complicated.” He laughs. “Coordinating the arrival and departure of athletes, coaches and support staff is hell. It’s like herding cats sometimes…”
Still, he says it’s all worth it — especially when you get the results. “I’m not going to suggest that the Whistler May camp last year was responsible for our strong showing in the speed events this past winter,” he says, “but I know that I felt the start of something good happening here last year. And I know the athletes felt it too. A successful program is the sum of a bunch of little things that come together during the season. The Whistler camp is just one of many initiatives we have planned for this year. But I think it has a role to play in our continued success.”
His words were echoed by the new team manager, Patrick Riml. Although he wasn’t in Whistler for the whole camp, he and I spent a morning together on the mountain last week while Boyd and the other coaches were putting the Canadian women through their paces. “This camp is amazing,” said the highly-touted Austrian, who just completed a seven-year stint running the U.S. women’s program. “To have this whole area to ourselves — to be able to have both the speed and technical teams train together without fighting others for skiing space — I can’t tell you how important that is to our program. Rob’s done a really good job here. I’m thoroughly impressed with his preparation…”