The Russian Freestyle Ski Team has added two Whistler residents to its coaching staff for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, as Chris Turpin and Mauro Nunez will guide the country's top halfpipe and slopestyle athletes as they prepare for their first-ever Winter Games at home.
Turpin, a freeskiing pioneer and longtime local coach, was approached with the opportunity out of left field when Russian snowboard coaches were making inquiries about who could fill the role.
"I guess my name came up a couple of times and they emailed me on Facebook," laughed Turpin, 32. "I was pretty much blown away."
Turpin first started working with the Russian skiers in January and recruited a good friend in Nunez to join the team's coaching staff.
"Mauro is smart, talented and has been coaching as long as I have," said Turpin. "It just seemed like a good fit."
Nunez said he's thrilled to be taking on the role.
"It's just amazing timing and I'm super excited to have been given such a prestigious position," said Nunez. "But that I get to work hand-in-hand with one of my best friends out here is one of the best parts."
Turpin and Nunez are working with a total of 12 male and female skiers - six specializing in halfpipe, six in slopestyle - in the brand new program, many coming with a background in moguls or aerials.
"I would say they're a few years behind (in freestyle), but they're super fit and keen on learning," said Turpin. "Every day we're on snow we put together, we're doing a little bit of catch-up to get up to North American standards.
"Definitely, (I've seen) mental improvements, technical improvement and a little bit of style improvement as well."
The Russians have spent several weeks training in Canada this summer, including multiple sessions in Whistler with Momentum Ski Camps and more time in Quebec doing water ramp work.
The skiers know a small amount of English but Turpin said he's had to do some adapting in order to communicate with the athletes effectively.
"I've learned a little bit of Russian. I made myself a cheat sheet with all the body parts, all the directions - up, down, left, right, roll, tuck, those things - and coaching words like control, commit, relax," explained Turpin.
Turpin said he, Nunez and the Russian team will be all over the globe in the next 18 months leading up to the Sochi Games but they'll look to spend much of the time in North America, hoping to absorb as much as possible from the top freestyle skiers around.
"Over there in Europe, you don't get the quality level of riding, both in the terrain and the people around you," said Turpin. "When they were over here this summer, they were just visually learning by riding the T-bar at Momentum with the amount of amazing riders around here."
Now more than halfway through the quadrennial, Turpin knows there's still a lot of work ahead for his skiers before getting the chance to compete for an Olympic medal on home snow.
"First, we'll be establishing high enough technical difficultly in runs to be able to compete," said Turpin. "Second will be just trying to get enough to qualify. It doesn't matter if we qualify last, as long as we qualify, that's the most important so we can focus on the big day in 2014."