When Canadian moguls star Mikael Kingsbury was about to compete in the six-man super final at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, he turned to longtime coach Rob Kober and told him what he had in mind for his last run.
Kober gave Kingsbury a knowing nod, confident smile and a fist bump. Sometimes it’s what a coach doesn’t say that can get an athlete ready for peak performance.
“It’s the best feeling when your coach has total trust in you,” Kingsbury said. “I knew he was there for anything. He’s a big reason (why I won). He was super-composed, super-calm and super-confident about us doing a great thing in Pyeongchang. (He’s) a big part of the medal and I’ll be forever grateful.”
After many seasons of training, preparation and hard work with Kober by his side, Kingsbury shone on the sport’s biggest stage. He won Olympic gold for the first time in a dominant season that saw him win a pair of Crystal Globes.
On Friday, Kober was named the winner of the Jack Donohue Coach of the Year award by the Coaching Association of Canada.
“There are so many great Canadian coaches that deserve this award, and I feel very honoured and very fortunate to be singled out,” Kober said. “Having my career recognized like this means a lot to me.”
The award is named after the late Jack Donohue, who led Canada to fourth-place finishes at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics in men’s basketball and was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
Recent winners include soccer’s John Herdman, softball’s Mark Smith and basketball’s Lisa Thomaidis.
Kober served as head coach of Freestyle Canada’s men’s moguls team from 2002-18.
“I like to think that I’ve been flexible over the years and I like to think that I’ve been reasonable at adapting my style per the individual,” Kober said. “I’ve had some success with a pretty wide range of characters and personality types.
“But at a high-performance level, we just try to break things down and figure out what we need to do to be successful, to get the guys on the podium.”
Knowing he was a good bet to win entering the final run in Pyeongchang, Kingsbury told Kober that he would downgrade his bottom jump by one net rotation and go with a cork 720 instead of a cork 1080.
Kober had been weighing when to discuss that very subject, but didn’t want to put any doubt in Kingsbury’s mind after a couple minor mistakes over the first two runs. He let the athlete come to him in that instance and they were both on the same page.
Kingsbury then went out and delivered as confidence trumped pressure at Phoenix Snow Park.
“He knew what he had to do and it was really clear to him,” Kober said from Penticton, B.C. “I felt like it was going to happen. I felt tremendously, tremendously confident for him in that moment. So it wasn’t like I had to fake it or anything or put on an act for him.
“I really believed that we were going to win that night.”
Kober has been involved in coaching for over 25 years. He recently began a new role as head coach of the Alberta moguls team.
“He always gave 100 per cent for me and for my teammates,” Kingsbury said from Montreal. “He was always well prepared, always had a million strategies to win or to get to the finals. He’s just a master. I like to call him the Bill Belichick of skiing. He’s amazing.”
Also Friday, figure skating coach Manon Perron of Boucherville, Que., was named the winner of the Geoff Gowan Award for lifetime contributions to coaching development.
Aboriginal Sport and Wellness Centre of Ontario teacher Greg Henhawk, from Six Nations of the Grand River, Ont., was the winner of the IG Wealth Management national NCCP Coach Developer Award for inspiring and developing coaches in the community.
Tennis Canada was named the winner of the Sheila Robertson Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to coach education, recognition, and professional development by a national sport organization or multisport service organization.
A total of 45 coaches and sport leaders were set to be honoured Friday night at the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership Awards Gala at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa.