A Whistler local got the chance to coach in Kazakhstan earlier this month.
Meghan Hebert, an assistant with the B.C. Provincial Snowboard Cross Team, was asked to attend the 2017 World Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan by Austin White, an athlete she coaches. After jumping at the opportunity, Hebert helped guide White to a sixth-place finish in the Feb. 2 final.
"He needed a coach to go with him, so he asked me if I wanted to go represent Canada," Hebert said.
Considering many European riders competing at the World Cup level also attended the event, Hebert was impressed with how White, a first-year student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, performed.
"The goal was to qualify in the top half of the 34 men, so to get into the top 16. He just squeaked in there and qualified 16th," she said. "He ended up improving 10 spots on the race day and came sixth, so he came in the top half of the top half, so that was very good. That surpassed the first goal.
"During the races, we made a new goal to make it into the top eight, so he did well. He surpassed my expectations."
In an interview with KelownaNow, White also said he was proud of his showing.
"I came here and didn't really have too many expectations because I wasn't sure about the quality of riders that were gonna be competing. Sixth place is pretty close to a podium spot, and overall, I'm super happy with how I did," he told the website.
Hebert noted though White achieved his initial goal, there were still some elements of his riding to tighten up before the final, which resulted in his rise.
"The biggest thing that we were looking at were his berms. He was overturning, so he wasn't able to generate speed at the end of the berm into the features," she said, noting White had some problems keeping his board flat in some of the qualifiers, making him off-balance for a couple of the jumps. "(In the finals), he was able to pump and work the features out of all the berms, so he was able to keep up with all those riders from Europe."
Hebert noted courses at events sometimes err on the side of being too short or having jumps that are too small, and appreciated the Almaty course for its larger size. As well, the weather conditions ultimately ended up being cooperative.
"The snow was ideal for what we were doing. We ended up getting a lot of snow for our training days, so there was a big delay, but I think it helped with the ice. It was a little bit icy when we first arrived," she said. "The jumps were anywhere from about 25 to 40 feet (7.6 to 12 metres) so it was very nice to see that they had a course for the level of riders."
While Kazakhstan offered its share of cultural differences, from food to mountain conditions, Hebert explained some societal attitudes were probably the most curious to her.
"It was pretty interesting going over there as a female because I was coaching a male athlete. A lot of people from Kazakhstan and other countries that are directly around Kazakhstan were talking and thought I was an athlete. When I told them I was a coach and my athlete, who was an 18-year-old boy, was telling them that I was his coach, they sounded surprised that he had a female coach. It was not something that they were familiar with," she said. "It wasn't that it was wrong or right, it was just very interesting to them because they're not used to having females coach or be in charge of a male."
Though White is an up-and-coming rider, Hebert may be able to parlay the Universiade experience on the coaching side of things as well, explaining this experience may help her coach at a level higher than NorAm Cup. She previously represented B.C. as a coach at the Canada Winter Games.