Scott Rawles chats about coronavirus’s impact on China’s moguls ski team

Antonio Olivero
Summit Daily
Scott Rawles, who now coaches the Chinese National Mogul Ski Team.
Summit Daily file

DILLON — Breckenridge legend, U.S. Ski Team Olympic coach and 2020 Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame inductee Scott Rawles recently has had his coaching connection to the Chinese national mogul ski team upended by the novel coronavirus.

After years with the U.S. Ski Team, including leading the team as head coach to several Olympic medals at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Rawles joined the Chinese team as head coach from 2014-18.

“It was an amazing experience,” Rawles said. “China is an old, old country, and the ski culture is relatively new there. So most things are very new as far as that goes.”

After helping to build the Chinese mogul program in that time period, Rawles resigned from his position in 2018 and took a year off, skiing for himself for the first time in a long time, he said.

Then in 2019, one of the American mogul skiers Rawles had coached, 2006 Olympic bronze medalist Toby Dawson, became the coach of the Chinese mogul team. Dawson asked Rawles if he’d like to join him as an assistant, which brought Rawles back to the Chinese team earlier this winter.

Rawles said he’s learned most of his ski terms in Chinese, though the athletes “meet in the middle” thanks to the English they know. His coaching iPad is crucial to his instruction, he said, as is the use of body language and hand signals.

“Most of my athletes with the Chinese, a lot of them didn’t start skiing until they were 13, 14 years old, so it’s a totally different mentality of trying to teach, as opposed to teaching somebody who’s young and already learned certain skills,” Rawles said. “We retrace to a lot of the basic stuff. They work hard and are very enthusiastic. They are super excited about the Olympics happening in Beijing (in 2022).”

Halfway through the four-year cycle before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on home snow, the Chinese team’s greatest accomplishment in moguls this season was Jin Wang’s 30th-place ranking in the International Ski Federation World Cup women’s mogul standings before FIS canceled the final mogul event of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After that, Rawles self-quarantined at his home in Denver for two weeks, as did athletes and other personnel returning from China. Since, Rawles has remained in Colorado while communicating with his athletes and team manager via the Chinese social media program WeChat.

The shutdown measures taken locally and globally in an attempt to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus — which was first discovered in Wuhan, China — have resulted in the cancellation of a camp at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area for the Chinese national mogul program. A-Basin is the home mountain of Rawles’ 2020 Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame sponsor and A-Basin Chief Operating Officer Al Henceroth.

The Chinese athletes remain at a center in China, where the team typically conducts its water training. At the moment, Rawles said, it seems the team’s scheduled training trip to Australia for the month of August is also off the table.

“Right now, they are basically doing physical training and everything without a coaching staff,” Rawles said. “The borders are closed in China right now, and we are not exactly sure when we will start up our regular training, but the last I heard, is we won’t have any international training until at least September.”

“It’s not just the ski team,” Rawles added. “Everybody in the world is scrambling to see what’s going to go on and to see how this is going to play out. There is a lot of uncertainty, for sure.”