Canada’s Mikaël Kingsbury gives coach Rob Kober of Penticton a hug after winning the gold medal in the men’s moguls event at Phoenix Snow Park in PyeongChang Sunday. Watching is KIngsbury’s father Robert, left. Photo from Freestyle Canada courtesy of Bernard Brault, La Presse.

Olympic dreams come true for South Okanagan coach

Penticton coach watches as his skier brings home the gold

“We did it.”

Launching himself into the arms of his coach Rob Kober of Penticton, those were the only words Mikaël Kingsbury remembers saying after winning the Olympic gold medal in men’s moguls last Sunday.

“I was just so unreal, it seemed to be happening so fast, I just couldn’t believe it, it was crazy so much happening all at once,” said Kingsbury, 25 of Deux-Montagnes, Que. in a telephone interview with the Western News this week from South Korea where he was competing at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. “But that was one of my favourite moments about winning the gold medal, just to see Rob and my parents at the bottom.

“I was chatting with Rob before that run — we have such a good connection — and we had a good plan, I just had to execute and I did. He (Kober) just deserves so much credit. We’re so close, he’s like a father to me. We don’t have to talk, sometimes we just know how each other feels.

“Because of him when I push the start gate I know I have all the tools to win.”

Moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury on Kristi’s Run at Apex during pre-Games training which he says helped him win his gold medal.
Mark Brett/Western News

There was one more skier to go before Kingsbury could claim his prize, but Kober’s expression at the top of the hill where he had been standing just a few feet away from his young skier 24.83 seconds earlier, left little doubt about the outcome in his mind.

“After his last run I was pretty sure he did win,” said Kober who is now in Alberta with family, watching his daughter Chloe who competes for the B.C. Freestyle team. “The first two runs he had mistakes and we knew the last run was the one that counted. I knew if Mik just cleaned it up a little bit he was going to win and I just basically told him that.

“Going into that start gate for that last run was super intense but definitely feeling like it was his for the taking. I felt super confident.”

This is Kober’s second gold medal as head coach, Alex Bilodeau won in Sochi in 2014 (Kingsbury won silver) but this one was different.

“Alex was a great skier and we definitely tried to include him in the team as much as we could but he chose to train privately on his own,” said Kober. “Of course because Mik has been with us and developed through the program from his start on the national team to becoming Olympic champion, that has very special meaning for my team, for our program and of course for myself personally.”

Related: Life on the road to Olympic gold for Penticton coach

Kingsbury was just 17 when he got the “big call” to join the national team. He looks back fondly on the years he and Kober have worked to make the dreams of a nine-year-old boy who had the Olympic rings taped to his bedroom ceiling, come true.

Olympic gold medalist Mikaël Kingsbury during a break from training at Apex Mountain Resort just before leaving for South Korea.
Mark Brett/Western News

“We’ve gone through so much, we’ve won everything together, and now we have won the Olympic gold medal,” said Kingsbury. “Rob’s probably the guy I have the most respect for in the world.

“It’s been a crazy ride and it’s hard to put into words … this is the best feeling in the world.”

Kingsbury was also quick to lend his emotional support to his friend and Canadian teammate Andi Naude of Penticton after she fell short of winning her old gold medal on the moguls hill the day before.

Naude was disqualified after going off track on her last run of the women’s moguls super finals. She was in first place heading into her final run.

“Andi was the first one I messaged after her event. I just said she’s a great girl and she’s amazing and she won peoples hearts,” recalled Kingsbury. “I said to her you are an awesome human being and no one can take that away from you and that’s better than a medal.”

Related: Penticton Olympian Naude responds to compassionate Canadians

The men’s team was not at the mountain for that race.

“We all knew that you’re either going to be super psyched or super devastated but either way it takes a ton of energy and in the end the boys decided not to go and I decided to stay back in the village with them so we watched it on TV like everybody back home,” said Kober. “I did a couple of days later have a chance to give Andi a hug and tell her how great she is. She seemed to be devastated but was doing as well as possible at the time.

“I hope she keeps going because she’s a very bright, very special young lady but she’s going to be feeling the need to get on with things too.”

Related: Editorial – Naude is still a winner

Both men’s and women’s skiers were at Apex Mountain Resort for 10 days of training immediately before leaving for South Korea.

Related:Penticton coach prepping Freestyle Canada athletes for Olympics at Apex

“The people at Apex were giving us a a great camp and it was a lot of fun, I was able to do some runs I wanted to do before PyeongChang and that really helped my confidence,” said Kingsbury. “The training course at Apex is amazing and the schedule was perfect and that played a big role for me. Because of that I arrived (in PyeongChang) and I was fresh and I was happy and that’s why I won the gold medal here.”

Moguls skiers will be back on the FIS World Cup circuit again the first week in March when they travel to Japan then to Europe before closing out the season at Marmot Basin in Jasper, Alta. at the end of March.

Apex is hosting the Canadian Junior Championships featuring moguls, dual moguls and aerial events March 7-11.

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