Hometown Olympian returns to coach

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Barbara LeRoy has watched her son race to the highest level of international skiing, dance through unforgiving slalom gates to an NCAA title and reach goals that most skiers will never set.

But she can't remember a time when she has seen her son, Andy, quite so happy.

Andy LeRoy's new sense of happiness has been inspired by a new girlfriend and his new job as a coach with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

"I just love everything about Steamboat," LeRoy said. "I want to stay here as long as possible. I've got a great job that I love, and I can't think of any place that I would rather be."

LeRoy grew up in Steamboat Springs, or more specifically, on the steep-sloped pitches of Howelsen Hill. His mom was a single parent who often worked three jobs. He said she did her best to be there all the time but admits the Winter Sports Club became a second home for him when she was at work.

That's where he learned to slice through the gates faster than his teammates, capturing the attention of U.S. Ski Team coaches. He earned a spot on the U.S. Ski Team and held it for eight years. The spot took him around the world and landed him in Nagano for the 1998 Olympics.

But like so many skiers who have passed through the ranks of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, now that LeRoy's competitive skiing career has come to an end, he has found himself drawn back to the place where it all started.

"I have a lot of fond memories of Howelsen Hill and the Winter Sports Club," he said. "This is where I spent most of my time when I was growing up."

Today, LeRoy hopes to pass his knowledge of skiing and his experience to the group of ability skiers he is coaching.

He works with skiers who have just become eligible to earn International Skiing Federation points. It's a group that LeRoy connected with easily.

"I can look them right in the eyeball and say, 'I've been there. I did it, and you can, too,'" LeRoy said.

He also can give them an idea of what it is like to be a member of the U.S. Ski Team and help prepare them for the challenges they might face.

But LeRoy isn't alone.

"I would say 40 to 50 percent of the coaches on the Alpine staff are former members of the club," Alpine director Tony Nunnikhoven said. "We look for coaches that are former members."

There are 17 former club members on Nunnikhoven's staff: LeRoy, Sue Schwartz, Aaron Haffey, Teddy Berglund, Jessica Kortas, Terry DelliQuadri, Scott Wither, Matt Graves, Erin Gilbertson, Heather Skinner, Jessica Hendryx, Katie Howell, Cindy Arnis, Brian Olsen, Heidi Nunnikhoven, Maren Berge and Nancy Brodi.

Nunnikhoven said it's these coaches who bring a sense of continuity to the Winter Sports Club, and it's one of the reasons the Winter Sports Club is so strong in the community.

He said he is thrilled to have a skier of Andy LeRoy's experience and talent on his staff, and said coaching is one of the reason's the Winter Sports Club so consistently produces top skiers.

--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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