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FlipKey Interviews Head Coach of the U.S. Olympic Snowboarding & Freeskiing Teams

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The 2014 Olympic Winter Games are around the corner. Recently we had the exciting opportunity to catch up with Head Coach Mike Jankowski at the VISA U.S. Freeskiing Grand Prix Event at Park City Mountain Resort, which was also the final Olympic qualifier for Freeskiing. We chatted with Mike about all things skiing and snowboarding including the much anticipated Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

373_lookingupStarting off the conversation, we asked Coach Mike where his favorite spot in the world is for snowboarding and he said without a doubt, it’s definitely Wanaka, New Zealand. On the hill there, skiers and snowboarders can check out the half pipe, the park and if they’re feeling really crazy, even give heli-skiing a shot. Off the hill, there’s tons of adventure activities offered year-round, from hiking to sky diving and to even bungee jumping.

Now as with any outdoor sport, everyone is at the mercy of Mother Nature, so we asked Coach Mike where he experienced the worst weather conditions for a competition. He replied saying the craziest weather he had experienced was in Saas Fee, Switzerland. The athletes and coaches had to battle zero visibility, avoid getting swallowed up by giant crevaces and ride in the front of the ski cat basket just to get up the hill. Not to mention the freezing temperatures.

Some of you reading right now might not have ever tried skiing or snowboarding, so here’s your opportunity to try something new with recommendations straight from the expert. We asked Coach Mike what mountain resort he would recommend for newcomers to the sport and he touts Mammoth Mountain in California. The terrain is visible and the resort offers easy access to beginner trails so it’s not intimidating when you get on the hill. There is also a nice progression of trails as you start to get the hang of the sport.

32783_FLS_W01We couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to ask Coach Mike about the long road to Sochi over the past four years and what all of us at home in the states can expect for this year’s Olympic Winter Games. To start, as Head Coach for 32 athletes competing this year we asked Coach Mike what key items are packed in his suitcase for the Games. Without a doubt he said his phone/computer chargers, aux batteries and Mophi in order to ensure seamless communication with everyone on his team which is extremely important. Plus he never gets on the hill without his Oakley goggles for maximum visibility. After all, the Head Coach has to be able to see his athletes perfectly when their mid trick, sky-high in the air.

Next up — getting to Sochi.  There has been a lot of hype about how difficult this venue is to get to, located off the coast of the Black Sea, the long trip requires it all – planes, trains and automobiles. We asked Coach Mike how many methods of transportation it will take him to get to Sochi and between car, bus, plane, a six-wheeler people-mover in Dulles, van and then finally, the chairlift up to the top of the hill, it will take Mike six(!) different modes of transport to get him over to the Olympic Games in Sochi this year. Happy travels, Mike!

As it relates to his team’s events, Slopestyle and Halfpipe (skiing) are both brand new to the Winter Games this year, so we asked Coach Mike what key pieces of advice he gives his athletes to keep themselves calm and focused. He explained it’s important to maintain balance.  It’s a lot of these competitors first Olympics so it’s important to take it all in, but at the same time, don’t let the excitement overwhelm you.  Staying focused, eating healthy and taking care of yourself to ensure maximum potential on the hill is key.

And then finally, if Coach Mike has time in between his team’s events, we asked him what other event he’s most excited to check out when he’s in Sochi. His response was men’s ice hockey because it’s an all star game with the very best American players (many of which are used to playing against each other in the NHL) coming together on the ice to represent their country and play some serious hockey.

Be sure to check out the U.S. Freesking and Snowboarding teams as they compete for Gold beginning Thursday, February 6 on NBC starting with the Men’s Slopestyle Qualifications. And get real time updates directly from Coach Mike himself by following him on Twitter @CoachJanks.

Go Team USA!