Longtime U.S. freestyle coach St. Pierre retires
DONNIE ST. PIERRE, whose athletes won seven World Cup titles and 14 Olympic and World Championships medals, is retiring after 15 years as a U.S. Ski Team coach, including the last eight as moguls head coach.
U.S. Freestyle Program Director Polly-Jo Clark, who made the announcement, said Scott Rawles will succeed St. Pierre. Rawles, a former coach and World Cup organizer at Breckenridge, Colorado, joined the U.S. coaching staff during the 2001 season. He has served a variety of roles, including strength and conditioning coach and NorAm/Development coach.
St. Pierre, the 1979 U.S. moguls champion, is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts, and graduated from the University of Colorado in 1985. He coached with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and spent four years as coach of the Australian Freestyle Ski Team before coming to the U.S. Ski Team in the 1992 season as the first development coach; he took over as moguls head coach following the 1998 season.
"It's been a great ride, a fun time," said St. Pierre, who will be returning to Australia early next year to explore job opportunities. He and his wife, former Australia World Championships moguls silver medalist Maria Despas, live in Steamboat Springs and have two young sons.
He declined to single-out a favorite moment of his career, but St. Pierre did have a few contenders.
"I'd have to admit that sweep in [Naeba] Japan two years ago [Feb. 22, 2004] when Toby Dawson led that 1-2-3-4 sweep and we had seven in the top 10 would be up there ... along with Hannah Kearney and Nate Roberts winning the moguls gold medals and Toby taking duals in [Ruka] Finland, which had produced so many great moguls skiers, at the 2005 World Championships in Ruka."
St. Pierre expressed confidence in the team and its new coaches going forward.
"I think the ski team's in good shape — Scott's so passionate and such a good coach, and Garth's [Hager, former national team moguls skier, joined the team full time this summer as a moguls coach] coming on with good, new ideas — and, frankly, even though this is an exciting time, it's the only way I could go cold turkey. I think a changing of the guard is a good thing, and after the Olympics this is a natural time. I've been fortunate to be on a great road with some great people — ski team staff and, unquestionably, great athletes ... and that includes so many who weren't medalists, but nonetheless are passionate, dedicated and gave it their best."
He credited the ski team with helping prepare athletes to give their best — "convincing Liz [McIntyre, the 1994 Olympic medalist who retired earlier this year after eight years as moguls technical coach] to become a coach was so special for this team. And Dee [Williams, who resigned as C team coach in 2001] and Scott have been a vital part of what we've done over these two Olympic cycles.
"And all the outstanding young talent coming out of the [USSA] divisions, thanks to the phenomenal job they do of getting all the moving parts together for coaching and staging events and creating opportunities. Other countries aren't as fortunate in having programs as good as what our divisions do every season," he said.
"What do I say about DSP? He's seen a lot of changes and made such a huge — make that HUGE! — difference to our moguls program and he'll be greatly missed," Clark said. "Everything from keeping athletes in the right state of mind in the gate to managing budget to building courses at camps, staying positive through everything — he does it all. He's tireless — first one on the hill, last off. He's been a valuable part of the team as a whole, for 'Flash' [head coach Jeff Wintersteen] and me. Personally, in many ways, Donnie's been my partner in crime for the last 13 years — I already miss him a great deal ... his unending sense of humor and everything else. I'm extremely happy for him and his family — now he'll be able to spend more time with 'Maz' and the kids. It's so difficult to have a family and do this job.
"On the other hand, and looking forward, we're so fortunate to have someone like 'Rawlsie' to step up. He's been with us for six years and he knows the systems well, and has great ideas on what's next, so the transition will be seamless. I'm excited to work with him — his honesty and no-nonsense style will maintain our momentum and keep things moving forward," she said.