Norway’s star alpine skier Aksel Lund Svindal won yet another World Cup downhill race over the weekend, his 30th victory on the World Cup circuit so far. Fellow Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud took second place, and both of them can thank an American for at least part of their success.
Svindal has now won all three downhill races so far this season. Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Sunday that one of the men behind his victories is Robert Reid, an American citizen living in Lillehammer who’s been part of the Norwegian alpine skiing team for 15 years.
Reid, age 45, is born in Houston, Texas and grew up in St Louis, Missouri, far from the steep mountain slopes of the alpine skiing world. But he studied sports technology at the University of Utah, not far from some of the world’s top skiing destinations, and he ended up getting a doctorate at Norway’s own athletics college (Norges idrettshøgskole), with a concentration on swing techniques.
Aftenposten reported that Reid started working for the national ski team in 2000 and since 2011, he’s been responsible for strategy and philosophy in the development of alpine skiers, based on both professional and practical knowledge.
“He helps the coaches and the athletes with some professional and deep analysis of their skiing,” Claus Ryste, sports chief for the national team, told Aftenposten. “He has a scientific approach, and the athletes rely heavily on him.”
Reid himself points to the team and its fellowship as the most important ingredient for success. The team’s culture and attitudes are unique, he told Aftenposten, stressing that alpine skiing is only an individual sport during the short time the skiers are hurtling down the race course. Otherwise it’s all about teamwork, with the “extremely high” work ethics of stars like Svindal and Jansrud carrying Norway’s team forward.
Reid thinks the Norwegian team has also understood the importance of the physical aspects of skiing. Ski techniques and tactics, along with wind resistance, are also important. “Maybe even more important than what we thought earlier,” Reid told Aftenposten, referring scientific measurements and the law of physics. The skiers need to understand, he said, how much it can cost to have an arm out for half a second.
In a sport where skiers win or lose over tenths of a second, such details are vitally important. Meanwhile, Svindal is on a roll this season, with Jansrud close behind.