Gilbertson agrees to role with U.S. team

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— Nine years ago, Chris Gilbertson returned to Steamboat Springs to help young members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club reach their goals.

Now, he hopes to do the same for members of the U.S. Ski Team's World Cup B squad.

"It's no different than what I was doing for the (Steamboat Springs Winter Sports) Club," Gilbertson said. "Hopefully I will be helping them develop the skills they need to move on to World Cup A, and then I will not be seeing them again."

Gilbertson started with the U.S. Ski Team in early April and will be in charge of leading a talented group of Nordic combined skiers competing at the World Cup B level. With the exception of veterans Johnny Spillane and Bill Demong, that group includes most of the other team members.

"My main objective is to get our guys up to World Cup A," Gilbertson said. "To do that, we are going to need to build some consistency both in jumping and cross-country skiing."

Gilbertson, a former special jumper who won the Junior National Championship in 1987 and was a development-level jumper with the U.S. Ski Team in the 1990s, will focus on making the American team better on the jumps.

He joined the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club in 1996. He also served as a development coach with the U.S. Nordic Combined team during the 1997-98 season and was a development coach for the special jumping team for three seasons, beginning in 1998. He continued to coach Winter Sports Club athletes during his three seasons with the special jumping team.

Gilbertson thinks his role at the Winter Sports Club, where athletes are encouraged to pursue Nordic combined instead of focusing on special jumping, is one of the reasons he was selected for the position.

Todd Wilson, the Winter Sports Club's Nordic director, said the U.S. Team's gain is the Winter Sports Club's loss.

"It's been bittersweet," Wilson said. "I think it's a great move for Chris, and I'm very happy for him. But I'm going to miss seeing him around here every day.

"It's a perfect fit for Chris, and I think the U.S. Ski Team is going to find he's a perfect fit for them."

Wilson is searching for Gil--bertson's replacement, a task he said is difficult. He recently sent e-mails to clubs across the country and will be accepting resumes from qualified candidates through May 5. Wilson said he also will consider internal candidates. He might look at the structure of the club before making a decision about Gilbertson's replacement.

Gilbertson's departure should not affect any of the Winter Sports Club's summer programs, Wilson said, adding that athletes will be jumping on the new plastic jumps as soon as they are ready.

The staff of the U.S. Ski Team's Nordic combined team also is in a state of transition this spring after longtime coach Bard Elden announced his resignation. Assistant coach Lasse Ottesen was promoted to head coach, and Dave Jarrett has accepted many new responsibilities.

Gilbertson will handle the World Cup B team, which used to be Jarrett's responsibility. Jarrett is expected to float between the A and B teams, depending on where he is most needed.

Gilbertson will continue to live in Steamboat Springs with his wife, Kandise, and their 3-year-old son, Gunnar.

Gilbertson hopes to bring the U.S. Ski Team to Steamboat Springs this summer to take advantage of the new plastic-covered jumps.

-- To reach John F. Russell, call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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