Pollock retires from post after 17 years 

Alpine Canada Alpin women's head coach setting forth on new adventures

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF ALPINE CANADA ALPIN - coach on the slopes Whistler resident and recently retired Alpine Canada Alpin women's head coach Jim Pollock (far right) is shown, from left to right, with Erin Mielzynski, Jay Keddy, Jeff Lackie, Marie-Michele Gagnon, Marie-Pier Prefontaine and Sarah Robinson.
  • Photo courtesy of alpine canada alpin
  • coach on the slopes Whistler resident and recently retired Alpine Canada Alpin women's head coach Jim Pollock (far right) is shown, from left to right, with Erin Mielzynski, Jay Keddy, Jeff Lackie, Marie-Michele Gagnon, Marie-Pier Prefontaine and Sarah Robinson.

Jim Pollock was hesitant to say he was riding off into the sunset of retirement.

The Whistler resident has given up his post as Alpine Canada Alpin's women's head coach and is taking some time to enjoy the resort and spend time with his family.

"It's been a long time that I've been there at that level," Pollock said. "I thought it's time for a break. It's time to step away and see things from different angles and spend a little time with myself."

He wasn't ready to call it quits permanently, though. Pollock will also be taking on some "shorter-term coaching projects" but declined reveal who he might be coaching.

"I'm still deciding whether it's a sabbatical or retirement. Retirement is a very strong word at this point," he said, adding he's going to take time to go biking and work on his house. "I do have a few offers down the road that I'm trying to push as far down the road as possible."

Roland Pfeifer, the longtime coach of American phenom Mikaela Shiffrin, has been announced as Pollock's successor.

As a veteran of four Olympic Winter Games and seven World Championships, it was admittedly difficult for Pollock to pick a highlight from his 17 years as part of the team. He settled on the satisfaction of Erin Mielzynski's World Cup slalom win in Ofterschwang, Germany in 2012.

"It was her first win and our first win as a team with this group," Pollock said. "It was a big breakthrough for the Canadian tech skiers.

"I felt that was a really big step in a new direction for Canadian skiing."

Pollock said Mielzynski approached the race with the right attitude to win.

"She just went for it," he recalled. "She didn't think about a thing that run."

In 32 years of coaching overall, Pollock's seen his share of change in the sport, and was always on his toes trying to find an edge for his athletes.

"There's so much more technology involved, first of all, and the whole thing is more competitive, more professional. You've got to be on the leading edge of everything every day if you want to be on top," he said. "It's not enough just to train some gates. You've got to be at the cutting edge of everything you do from ski equipment, to technical analysis to fitness. There are so many good skiers now. Anyone can win on any given day. It's become a much bigger, better field and it's a better sport to watch."

As the margins of error became narrower and narrower, Pollock was appreciative of his fellow coaches, as they all pushed one another to improve in a supportive atmosphere.

Pollock acknowledged keeping the skiers on a positive and even keel wasn't always easy, especially with the technical skiers sometimes being overshadowed by the downhill competitors.

"The challenge is to keep everybody believing in themselves. In Canada, especially, there's a great tradition of downhill so to say, 'We can do this in the technical events,'" he said. "It's just as important and in some ways, more difficult, to achieve success."

In a release, Mielzynski was appreciative of Pollock's efforts since they began working together in 2009.

"His commitment to the team and his athletes has always been unwavering and he's created a sense of family for our team. His passion for skiing is contagious and has kept us going even during some of our toughest days, sticking with us through our ups and downs and always being there pushing us to do our best, believing in us through every turn," she said.

Pollock said Pfeifer would be inheriting a team on the rise. Marie-Michele Gagnon posted five top-10 results this year in the face of a nagging shoulder injury while Marie-Pier Prefontaine and Mielzynski both finished the season ranked in the top 15. He also likes what he sees in up-and-comers Mikaela Tommy, Candace Crawford and Valerie Grenier.

"They are very young and talented. They made a few steps because the older girls were breaking trail," he said. "They've caught up and now they're right behind, ready to be the second tier behind those top three. I can see them having a breakthrough year."

Pollock originally hails from Montreal and grew up skiing Mont Tremblant. He has called Whistler home for over 20 years.

"If you're a skier, it's the only direction you go," he said.

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